By Christine Spolar | 11 Februrary 2022
KAISER HEALTH NEWS — The four free covid-19 rapid tests President Joe Biden promised in December for every American household have begun arriving in earnest in mailboxes and on doorsteps.
A surge of covid infections spurred wide demand for over-the-counter antigen tests during the holidays: Clinics were overwhelmed with people seeking tests and the few off-the-shelf brands were nearly impossible to find at pharmacies or even online via Amazon. Prices for some test kits cracked the hundred-dollar mark. And the government vowed that its purchase could provide the tests faster and cheaper so people, by simply swabbing at home, could quell the spread of covid.
The Defense Department organized the bidding and announced in mid-January, after a limited competitive process, that three companies were awarded contracts totaling nearly $2 billion for 380 million over-the-counter antigen tests, all to be delivered by March 14.
The much-touted purchase was the latest tranche in trillions of dollars in public spending in response to the pandemic. How much is the government paying for each test? And what were the terms of the agreements? The government won’t yet say, even though, by law, this information should be available. […]