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Answering Your Questions About COVID-19 Testing

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COVID-19 continues to spread, now as the Omicron variant. Getting vaccinated is the most effective way to protect you and your family from getting seriously ill, being hospitalized or dying.

You should make sure you're up to date with your vaccines. Testing is another important step you can take to protect yourself and others. 

A service member swabs the nose of another service member, who’s leaning back in a chair.
COVID-19 Testing
Army medic paratroopers assigned to 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade conduct COVID-19 testing on a service member on Caserma Ederle, Italy, May 15, 2020. The testing helps ensure the brigade is ready for cross-country movement, when necessary.
Photo By: Army Spc. Ryan Lucas
VIRIN: 200515-A-BT239-500

"Testing is critically important to help reduce the spread of COVID-19," Dr. Kenneth Yale, interim director of the TRICARE Health Plan, said. "If you've been exposed to a person with COVID-19 or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, you should get tested. We encourage TRICARE families to follow currently approved TRICARE requirements for coverage of COVID-19 testing at to ensure your test is covered." 

Check out the following questions and answers for guidance on COVID-19 testing and how TRICARE covers tests. 

Question: How does TRICARE cover COVID-19 tests administered by a provider? 

A: TRICARE will cover your COVID- 19 test and waive the cost of the office visit if a TRICARE-authorized provider or a provider at a military hospital or clinic deems your test medically necessary. The provider can decide you need a test based on your symptoms, exposure risk and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

To find a TRICARE-authorized provider who can perform a COVID-19 test, use the Find a Doctor tool. You can also reach out to your local military hospital or clinic directly regarding the availability of COVID-19 testing.  

Q: Does TRICARE cover at-home COVID-19 tests? 

A: TRICARE covers the cost of at-home COVID-19 tests that are approved by the Federal Drug Administration, including tests approved under Emergency Use Authorization, and ordered by a TRICARE-authorized provider for a medically necessary purpose. For example, a test would be medically necessary if you're showing COVID-19 symptoms or know or suspect you’ve had close contact with an infected person. 

Currently, TRICARE doesn’t have authorization to reimburse you for the cost of at-home COVID-19 tests outside of this guideline. These tests are also referred to as self-tests or over-the-counter tests. This means if you buy an at-home test for any reason at retailers or pharmacies without a health care provider's authorization, TRICARE won't cover the cost of the test. However, you have multiple options to obtain free at-home antigen rapid diagnostic tests, as well as other tests like polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests through federal and local government entities

A man leans through a car window to swab the nose of a young boy.
COVID-19 Test
Air Force Staff Sgt. Shawn Williams, who’s in cyber systems operations with the 103rd Air Control Squadron, 103rd Airlift Wing in the Connecticut Air National Guard, administers a COVID-19 test to a child at a test site at Yale New Haven Health Shoreline Medical Center, Guilford, Conn., Jan. 31, 2022.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Matthew Lucibello
VIRIN: 220131-Z-QC464-1023

Q: What are other options for getting a free, at-home COVID-19 test? 

A: As of Jan. 19, you can order free, at-home tests through the federal government at Every home in the U.S. is eligible to receive four at-⁠home COVID-⁠19 tests. Order your free tests now so you have them when you need them. You should take an at-home test: 

  • If you begin having COVID-19 symptoms, including a fever, sore throat, runny nose or loss of taste or smell. 
  • If you come into close contact with someone who has COVID-19 (test at least five days after exposure). 

Keep in mind, TRICARE will only cover your test if a TRICARE-authorized provider deems the test is medically necessary. If you test positive or negative on your at-home test, follow CDC's guidance for self-testing, and be sure to report positive test results to your health care provider. This free federal government initiative is just one way for you to get at-home tests. Go to to learn about other resources. 

Q: Who should get tested for COVID-19? 

A: The CDC recommends that you test for COVID-19 if you have COVID-19 symptoms. Symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus, and anyone can have mild to severe symptoms of COVID-19. If you come into close contact with someone who has COVID-19, you should also get tested to check for infection. You should test at least five days after you've had close contact with someone with the virus. Check the CDC website for further guidance on who should be tested and who doesn't need to be tested. 

Keep in mind, whether you test positive or negative for COVID-19, you should take steps to protect yourself and others, and follow CDC's recommendations

An airman wearing a face mask and gloves is handed a COVID-19 test specimen by someone wearing gloves and a gown.
Test Specimen
Air Force Staff Sgt. Jared Stewart receives a COVID-19 test specimen at a COVID-19 test site located at Yale New Haven Health Shoreline Medical Center in Guilford, Conn., Jan. 31, 2022. Over the course of the morning, this test site conducted approximately 150 tests.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Matthew Lucibello
VIRIN: 220131-Z-QC464-1004

Q: What if my job or my child's school requires a COVID-19 test? 

A: TRICARE will only cover tests that are medically necessary as determined by a TRICARE-authorized provider. This means TRICARE doesn't cover tests that you may need for work, school, travel or for similar reasons. You should check with your employer, local or state public health authorities, or other party that requires the test for guidance and possible coverage or reimbursement if there's a cost. You can also reach out to your TRICARE contractor if you have questions about coverage for testing. 

For more on COVID-19 testing and getting care, review guidance on the TRICARE website and CDC website. Remember, get up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines by finding a vaccine or a booster near you. By taking the proper precautions, you can help keep yourself and others safe. 

Visit or TRICARE COVID Guidance for the most current COVID-19 information. 

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