Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This


LA Public Health Wants To Keep COVID-19 Tests, Shots And Treatment Free For Uninsured

A health worker wearing a yellow shirt and face mask administers a COVID shot to a woman wearing a black shirt on her arm
A health worker administers a COVID-19 shot to a woman at Ted Watkins Memorial Park in Watts in May 2022.
(Ashley Balderrama for LAist)
We need to hear from you.
Today during our spring member drive, put a dollar value on the trustworthy reporting you rely on all year long. The local news you read here every day is crafted for you, but right now, we need your help to keep it going. In these uncertain times, your support is even more important. We can't hold those in power accountable and uplift voices from the community without your partnership. Thank you.

Federal funding for COVID-19 tests and treatments may dry up after the national emergency ends on May 11. That could make it difficult for California residents without insurance to get low-cost tests and shots. Los Angeles County health officials say they are trying to fill the gap.

What happens in May?

In a Twitter thread in January, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha wrote that the change won’t happen immediately.

“On May 12, you can still walk into a pharmacy and get your bivalent vaccine for free,” he wrote.

Support for LAist comes from

Eventually, “we will transition from U.S. government-distributed vaccines and treatments to those purchased through the regular healthcare system, the way we do for every other vaccine and treatment,” Jha said.

What will change in L.A.?

California's COVID-19 emergency will end Feb. 28. L.A. County sites will continue to provide vaccines, therapeutics and test kits for free to those who are uninsured and underinsured "as long as our supplies last," according to County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.

"We anticipate no changes to the distribution of vaccines and therapeutics through the next few months," she said in an email, adding that the county is "hoping that this will be true as well for COVID tests, although our supply is more limited."

County health officer Dr. Muntu Davis said “There'll be some stuff that shifts to the health care stream … that’s the shift that we have to do, while at the same time, trying to maintain what we need for those who are uninsured or underinsured to ensure that they get that as well. I do think it’s a question of, if this is in the private industry, how much does it cost and do we have the funding to pay for it?”

What if I have health insurance?

People with private health insurance or those enrolled in Medi-Cal will still be able to access vaccines, tests and treatments from a licensed provider without any out-of-pocket costs until Nov. 11. After that, insured people may be charged for those services if they go through an out-of-network provider. After the federal emergency ends in May, people with health insurance will lose access to the eight free at-home antigen tests they were eligible for each month.

Other L.A. changes

The Los Angeles City Council ended COVID-19 testing requirements for unvaccinated city employees in a 13-0 vote Tuesday But the vaccine mandate for all city employees remains in effect.

Support for LAist comes from

Previously L.A. city unvaccinated employees had to receive an exemption and undergo weekly testing. The resolution says they'll be reimbursed for their time and money spent following the requirements.

But given that COVID-19 strains have evolved and guidelines have changed, the resolution says the testing requirement could be reinstated in the future.

Nate Perez contributed to this report.

What questions do you have about the pandemic and health care?
Jackie Fortiér helps Southern Californians understand the pandemic by identifying what's working and what's not in our health response.

Most Read