Walmart and Kroger, the two largest retailers in the United States, have both raised their prices for the BinaxNOW COVID-19 rapid tests, after an agreement with the Biden administration to sell the antigen self-test kits at a fixed price expired at the end of the year.
The average number of COVID-19 tests administered per day is nearing record highs amid a surge in positive cases.
The two retailers, along with Amazon, had agreed to a three month deal with the administration in September 2021 to sell federally discounted test kits made by Abbott Laboratories at $14.
The cost of the two part self-test kits at Walmart has risen to $19.98, while Kroger is now selling them for $23.99.
The big pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens, are selling the tests for $23.99 a box, while other retailers are charging even more.
“The program ended in mid-December, and while other retailers increased prices in mid-December, Walmart held the $14.00 through the holidays before increasing the price,” said a Walmart spokesperson in a statement to FOX Business.
The spokesperson said that the tests are still being sold in its stores and online, but stated there are purchase limits in place due to “significant demand.”
A Kroger spokesperson explained that the pricing program was phased out and standard retail pricing reinstated, after fulfilling their agreement with the White House.
Abbott, the manufacturer of the BinaxNOW tests, said that the stay-at-home kits are currently out of stock on Amazon.com.
The test kit manufacturer said it is running their operations around the clock, seven days a week to pump out 70 million tests a month.
“Despite rising U.S. material and labor costs, we have not passed along any of these costs to our customers and the price at retail has not changed since we launched the test,” according to Abbott.
The holiday season combined with the new Omicron variant, has led to a surge in demand for COVID-19 tests, making the kits both difficult to find and keep in stock.
At-home PCR tests are more readily available, but generally cost about $100 per test.
Other rapid tests approved by the FDA for home use include the Ellume COVID-19 Home Test and the QuickVue test made by Quidel.
“I can’t give you an update on any conversations,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki when asked today if the administration was working with retailers to bring the test prices down.
“I’m not going to get into details of our private conversations with these providers,” she said.
“Our focus is, of course, ensuring that we are increasing access and access to free tests to people across the country.”
She instead pointed at Biden’s vow in December to make 500 million at-home tests available free of charge via mail through a new government website sometime this month.
Insurance companies will be required under the White House plan to reimburse applicants for the tests.
Many details regarding timing and costs of the plan have yet to be revealed.
Psaki would not say whether the administration would have an update on how long it will take to send out and distribute the test kits over time.
By Bryan Jung
Bryan S. Jung is a native and resident of New York City with a background in politics and the legal industry. He graduated from Binghamton University.