How can I get a covid test free through the state of Minnesota?
State of Minnesota community testing sites, and the at home testing kits through Vault Health remain great reliable ways to test free of charge with really reasonable turnaround times.
The state says they will test all ages, but all sites are now using saliva tests, not nasal swabs so a child has to be able to produce enough saliva to fill the tube.
- This is a list of community testing sites. They do the very accurate regular PCR testing. The testing is free. And results are pretty reliably returned in 12-50 hours, roughly averaging around 12-36 hours lately. (10/8/21)
- The state of Minnesota also provides free at home testing kits through Vault Health. These are also saliva tests. You can only keep one on hand at a time. The test are shipped to your home or delivered via door dash in some cases, you must be monitored by a proctor in a private zoom room while you take your test, and they provide a bag to ship them back via UPS. Most of the time these are shipped to Oakdale, MN, and results come back in 24 hours after being received. Occasionally they get shipped to other locations and take longer in transit.
Where else can I get a covid test outside of state testing sites?
The State of Minnesota maintains a list of other testing sites, and they include information on the types of tests they perform, whether they are saliva or a nose swab, and what ages they can test. Some of these testing sites accept all insurance and submit the insurance claims for you, making the test free to most people. These include locations like CVS, Walgreens, Urgency Room, and Oral DNA. But some of these testing sites only accept out-of-pocket payments. See below, “Companies where your covid testing may not be free.” Other sites only accept specific insurance plans, e.g. we are told that GSLabs does not accept medicare or medicaid. This links to a state maintained list of testing sites that allows you to search by zip code and the type of test you are looking for.
Where can I test a young child, or someone else for whom a saliva test is difficult?
Many pediatric offices are testing for covid. If your child has symptoms or has had an exposure, calling your child’s physician is a great place to start. Some people have been charged for an office visit in order to be tested, but some clinics are not charging for an office visit.
- Healthpartners, even if you aren’t their patient. Anyone can be tested at Healthpartners. Tests use a nasal swab and so they are appropriate for young children, and there is not a charge for an office visit separate from the testing. So far we are not aware of any out-of-pocket costs and most if not all insurance seems to be accepted. We don’t know how they handle folks that are uninsured, but it might be worth contacting them to ask.
- OralDNA says they accept all forms of insurance. They typically use an oral rinse collection kit, but we are told that they will do a nose swab on very young children. They promise results in 24 hours. We have reached out to confirm the information about nose swabs and to ask if there is a minimum age, but we have not heard back yet.
- Valley Medical may be another option. They seem to have rapid testing (results by midnight) and accept most major insurance (not Healthpartners) for symptomatic individuals, and they test down to age 0. They imply that testing for travel and some other purposes may not be covered by insurance. We’ve reached out for clarification.
- State community testing sites, which are free with or without insurance, will test any age child, but they are only doing saliva tests at this time. So if your child can produce enough saliva, this will work. One creative set of parents has used a syringe to extract saliva from their child’s mouth to make a community testing site work. We don’t know what affect this would have on the test results, but if you are desperate for a free test, it might be something to ask about. Results come back in 24-48 hours of late. (10/11/21)
- Pixel, by LabCorp, are at home nasal swab testing kits authorized down to age 2. They will bill your insurance, and there are free to those that are uninsured, as long as you meet the criteria (experiencing symptoms, exposed to covid, living or working in a congregate setting, or have been asked to be tested by a medical or public health professional). You can also pay out of pocket if you don’t meet the criteria ($119). These tests are mailed via FedEx back to LabCorp and results are available in 1-2 days after LabCorp receives the test kit.
- The state maintains a list of testing sites. For each site it lists the ages the organization is willing to test. Not all sites will accept insurance. Check with the companies directly, but you can also check our list below of Companies Where Your Covid Testing May Not Be Free.
Where can I get a rapid result PCR or molecular test?
Favorite options of late are:
- Walgreens, a few locations have rapid results molecular testing. If they are all booked, sometimes between 9pm and 10 pm a few slots open up. Scroll down to see which locations have ID Now and have appts available.
- Oral DNA officially isn’t rapid testing, but they turn results around in 24 hours and accept most insurance.
- Urgency room has rapid molecular testing and accepts most insurance.
- State testing sites, are not rapid testing, but a few people have gotten results in same day when they have been tested in the morning. It can be as long as 72 hours.
- GSLabs was a favorite site for some but their website indicates they have put their PCR testing (both rapid and regular) on hold while they update equipment.
- Valley Medical may be another option. We’ve reached out for confirmation. They seem to have rapid testing (results by midnight) and accept most major insurance (not Healthpartners) for symptomatic individuals. They imply that testing for travel and some other purposes may not be covered by insurance.
Use this link at MDH and search by zip code and by type of test. You want to look at rapid results PCR and rapid results molecular tests. BUT, be aware that most of the rapid results PCR tests are being given by companies that only accept out-of-pocket payments and will not submit to insurance. Tests often range from $150-350. Look at the question below, “Companies where your covid testing may not be free.” You’ll find more rapid molecular tests that will file insurance claims for you.
What rapid results tests can I do at home?
All rapid results test you can do at home are antigen tests.
- BinaxNow. The most affordable at home antigen test we know of comes from Abbott and is called BinaxNow. Results are provided in 15 minutes.
- Walmart sells the tests for $14 for a box of two tests. Their website allows you see if they are in stock locally for pickup, or to purchase them online.
- Sams Club sells the tests for $14 for a box of two tests. Their website allows you see if they are in stock locally for pickup, or to purchase them online.
- Amazon sells the tests for $15/box.
- Walgreens sells them for $23.99/box. Their higher price means that they are less often out-of-stock online, and they can also be found sometimes in stores locally of late.
- CVS sells them for $23.99/box. Their higher price means that they are less often out-of-stock online. We haven’t found them in stock locally much of late.
- Other at home rapid antigen tests.
- Ellume provides results in 15 minutes. Test kits are around $35 for one test, and can often be found at Amazon as well as local pharmacies. Ellume just recalled 195,000 tests today (10/6) for giving false positive results. One component of their tests was affected by a supply chain issue causing the problem.
- Quickvue provides results in 15 minutes. Test kits are $24 for one test and can be found at some local pharmacies.
What PCR tests can I do at home?
VaultHealth offers free, convenient at home testing in the state of MN. You can order your kit here and it will be shipped to your home:
You meet with online with a proctor in a private Zoom room to administer the saliva test, and then drop it off at a local UPS location. Shipping is FREE. You will be notified when the test is received at Vault, and again when the results are available. Results are usually available within 24-48 hours of it having been received at Vault.
There are other PCR tests you can do at home for a cost, but for Minnesotans, as long as you do not have any difficulty producing saliva, Vault Health is the very best answer.
Pixel, by LabCorp, are at home nasal swab testing kits authorized down to age 2. They will bill your insurance, and there are free to those that are uninsured, as long as you meet the criteria (experiencing symptoms, exposed to covid, living or working in a congregate setting, or have been asked to be tested by a medical or public health professional). You can also pay out of pocket if you don’t meet the criteria ($119). These tests are mailed via FedEx back to LabCorp and results are available in 1-2 days after LabCorp receives the test kit.
There are no rapid PCR tests that you can do that you can do at home, only regular PCR tests.
Where can I get tested on the weekend?
- Some state testing sites are open on the weekend. Their hours are included in this list. In the metro, MSP Airport and Brooklyn park are open 7 days a week, and Roy Wilkins auditorium has Sunday hours but not Saturday. Outstate Duluth has Saturday hours and Moorhead has Sunday hours.
- This list of testing locations, searchable by zip code, includes the hours for each location, as well as the types of tests they perform, and the ages they will test. Most Walgreens, CVS, and the Urgency Room have weekend hours. Some clinics are testing on weekends, including some Allina and Healthpartners locations. Oral DNA Labs is open on Saturday but not Sunday. All of the above accept health insurance. Be aware that some companies require out-of-pocket payments. See our list below of Companies Where Your Test May Not be Free.
Where can I get tested for travel?
Different countries have different requirements. In general, traveling overseas usually requires a rapid PCR or rapid molecular test, and you need it within so many hours of travel. There are many options that require out-of-pocket payments. Options that might be free are harder to come by.
- Oral DNA says they can return results in under 24 hours, and they expressly mention testing for travel. They also accept most insurance.
- Healthpartners, even if you aren’t their patient. Their website expressly mentions testing for travel, but we don’t know if there is a guarantee on turnaround time. Anyone can be tested at Healthpartners. Tests use a nasal swab and so they are appropriate for young children, and there is not a charge for an office visit separate from the testing. So far we are not aware of any out-of-pocket costs and most if not all insurance seems to be accepted.
- State testing sites do not guarantee turnaround time, so they are a gamble, but many people have used them recently because turnaround times have been 24-48 hours in general.
- You can search this state list by type of tests (RT-PCR or RT Molecular) and see all the options including when they are open. Be sure to check our list below of “Companies where your covid testing may not be free” and check their website for costs. Some are free some are not. Some locations will require you to have symptoms or exposure in order to be prioritized for a rapid PCR or molecular test.
- Wandertest is located on in Terminal 1 on Level 3 of the Gold Ramp. Rapid PCR tests are $199, and they do not file insurance. Results are available in about an hour. They are open 7 days a week, but recommend appointments.
Companies where your covid testing may not be free.
All of the sites below are linked from the MDH website as testing locations. At all of these, you may pay out-of-pocket up front for your tests and you will have to work with your insurance provider to see if they will reimburse you for out of pocket costs. People with Medicare, Medicaid, and some other insurance have said they have been unable to be reimbursed using codes and receipts provided by testing companies. We have not verified this information.
- AnyLabTestNow says, “Free options for testing are available. The COVID-19 PCR Test may be covered by your insurance plan or the government, with no out-of-pocket costs to you. . If you are interested in this option, please contact your healthcare provider.” Rapid PCR is $169.
- ARCpoint Labs says, “We currently do not accept insurance.” We were unable to find the costs of the tests online.
- Gatherwell says, “We are NOT accepting insurance payments. You may want to check with your own personal insurance provider and see if they will reimburse you for out-of-pocket test costs.”
- GSLabs accepts some insurance, but not all insurance. We are told by some who have gone that they do not accept Medicare or Medicaid. One person was told that they do not accept any union insurance. Another person has an employer based healthcare plan through BCBS and was told it would not be accepted. They have had a rapid PCR but at the present time (10/10/21) are not doing any rapid or regular PCR tests. Recently patients have waited 10 days for regular PCR test results and then have received letters saying their samples were contaminated and they needed to be retested. Prices on this page.
- Hyvee. Their online consent and authorization says, “I understand that no third-party reimbursement, including Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement, will be submitted for this test.” We are unable to find the cost of the tests online, even when logged in.
- Minneapolis Health Clinic says, “We do not accept insurance for tests.” A rapid molecular test is $150, a rapid PCR is $200.
- Rolseth Drug (Forest Lake) says, “Payment is collected either when you book online or at the time of testing. Additionally, you may submit to your insurance company to attempt reimbursement, as your invoice will contain all the billing codes and information you need.” A rapid PCR test is $189.
- Thrifty White (Lindstrom) says, “Payment is collected when you book online. Additionally, you may submit the invoice to your insurance company to attempt reimbursement.” A rapid PCR tests is $190.
- Zepto Life Technology says “Currently only accepting out-of-pocket payment” in spite of saying they are medicare and medicaid certified. Rapid PCR tests are $199, more on the weekends.
Where/How can I find over-the-counter antigen testing kits in stock to order?
The website NowInStock can help you identify locations where over the counter tests are in stock and available to be shipped. You can create a login and ask to be alerted when specific locations are in stock. These are a great solution if you are able afford to keep a few on hand for when you need a rapid test. We have no connection to NowInStock and we won’t receive any benefit from you using them.
- CVS restocks overnight and most mornings and you can order up to 6 boxes at a time. Binaxnow, Quickvue. Both tests are $23.99.
- We are told you do not have to be a member of Sams Club to order covid test kits. We’ve only seen them carrying Binaxnow. $14/box
- Where Walgreens has test kits in stock locally, you can sometimes get them delivered via DoorDash. Binaxnow, Quickvue
If I test positive, how do I know if I qualify for monoclonal antibodies?
Complete this questionnaire from MDH: https://umn.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_8tVAsh44HLqqkkK?fbclid=IwAR0aguUttxrPyCkY5q8fm_3kt8Z1b1qHwcjKFrTjbARXsPl21KQGw1fEOAQ
How accurate are at-home antigen tests?
Because the tests are relatively new, more and more studies are coming out. Here is :
- A recent article from the New York Times about the at-home antigen tests. (Behind a paywall we acknowledge)