Americans will be able to get free COVID-19 tests by...

Americans will be able to get free COVID-19 tests by mail starting Monday. Credit: Newsday / Reggie Lewis

Free COVID-19 tests from the federal government are available for order starting Monday, as health officials continue to monitor the latest uptick in cases on Long Island and around the United States.

Meanwhile, insurers say they are continuing to update their computer systems to address problems that some policyholders have had in trying to obtain the updated COVID vaccine for free, without copays, as required by law.

COVID-19 infections remain widespread but mild for the most part, experts said. Long Island COVID hospitalizations have more than quadrupled since early July, but the rate of increase has slowed, and numbers remain below this time last year, according to state data.

“The virus is less severe and most of the population has some degree of immunity through natural infection or a vaccine or both,” said Dr. Leonard Krilov, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at NYU Langone Hospital — Long Island. “Those two have contributed to why it's a milder disease.”

Surveillance of COVID-19 in wastewater shows high levels in Suffolk County and moderate levels in Nassau County, according to state data.

Hospitalizations and wastewater surveillance are two of the key ways scientists track the spread of COVID-19, especially because most people test at home and are not required to report the results.

Still, the rate of new reported infections has been increasing for weeks, state data shows.

Krilov said the majority of patients who test positive were admitted for other conditions and were found to have COVID-19 during hospital screening. ICU numbers are not up significantly, he said.

With the holiday season approaching, having access to at-home tests would allow people to monitor for possible infections before large gatherings, he said.

Each household can order four free tests through COVIDTests.gov.

Experts say the updated COVID-19 vaccine is another way to reduce the spread of the virus, as well as decrease the chance of severe disease in older adults, people with compromised immune systems and others at higher risk.

Yet some Long Islanders have shown up at their vaccine appointments and been told their insurance doesn't cover the shot, even though federal law mandates in-network coverage with no copays. Medicare and Medicaid also cover the shot cost-free.

America's Health Insurance Plans, a Washington, D.C.-based group that represents private insurers, said in a statement Friday that it and its members "are working closely with the federal government, pharmacies, and other partners to quickly ensure patient access to COVID-19 vaccines with $0 cost sharing and address any issues relating to newly added billing codes quickly."

In New York, insurers appear to have resolved the issues, said Leslie Moran, spokeswoman for the New York Health Plan Association.

“We’ve asked plans and what we’ve heard from plans is the coding issues with the claims systems have been fixed," Moran said Friday. "There should not be any coding issues anymore.”

Anyone who was told their insurance didn't cover vaccine costs, and paid for a shot, should "contact their insurer immediately to request the reimbursement for which they are legally eligible," state health department spokeswoman Danielle DeSouza said in an email.

Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland. The conversation continues on newsday.com/nextli where we invite Long Islanders to share their experiences on this looming crisis of changing weather patterns, flooding, shoreline protection, home buyouts and more to find potential solutions for the region’s future.

Paying the Price: Long Island's stormy future Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland.

Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland. The conversation continues on newsday.com/nextli where we invite Long Islanders to share their experiences on this looming crisis of changing weather patterns, flooding, shoreline protection, home buyouts and more to find potential solutions for the region’s future.

Paying the Price: Long Island's stormy future Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland.

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