Rapid-Test Rollout Not Reaching Those Who Need It Most
By Consumers For Quality Care, on February 8, 2022
The Biden administration’s rollout of free COVID-19 rapid tests has hit roadblocks that are preventing the tests from getting to those who need them most, according to Kaiser Health News.
Last month, the administration launched a website where consumers can order up to four free tests per household. However, this rollout has been uneven, failing to reach those without access to the internet, and who don’t speak one of three languages available on the website, and providing solutions for multiple orders from situations in which multiple families live in the same dwelling, or those who live in multifamily residences.
Communities of color have been hit harder by COVID-19 and would benefit immensely from having easy, free access to tests, but living situations can make this hard to achieve. More than a third of Hispanic Americans and a quarter of Black Americans live in a household with five or more people, compared to just 17 percent of White Americans that live in a household that large. The website also doesn’t allow more than four tests to be sent to a multifamily residence, like a condo, dorm, or house divided into apartments.
Additionally, since the tests can only be ordered online, many consumers who don’t have access to the internet are out of luck. Nearly a quarter of U.S. households do not have a computer. One in five Black households and over one in four Native Americans do not have an internet subscription. Even if these communities do have access to the internet, the site is currently only available in English, Spanish, and Chinese – which is very limiting.
The White House is moving to address these issues, including setting up a call-in phone line and directing 20 percent of test shipments a day to vulnerable zip codes as determined by the CDC. While this is a good start, more must be done to make it easier for all consumers to access virus testing, and Congress and the Biden administration must do their part to make this possible.