Walmart and Kroger Hike Prices for COVID Tests Amid Shortage

Walmart and Kroger are increasing the prices of one of the most widely used at-home coronavirus test kits, leading critics of the U.S. retailers to accuse them of profiting from an Omicron-fueled spike in demand for the kits to boost their bottom lines.

The companies said Tuesday that they are moving to hike prices for Abbott’s BinaxNOW tests following the expiration of a September deal with the White House under which they sold the kits at cost — $14. In mid-2021, Abbott was the firm that sold the kits at cost — $14. instructed A factory is assembling its tests to destroy millions, citing then-dwindling Sales.

Walmart will now offer the highly sought-after kits — which include two rapid Covid-19 tests — for $19.98 per box and Kroger will sell them for $23.99.

“This is pandemic profiteering, plain and simple,” the Groundwork Collaborative, a progressive policy organization, said Tuesday night. “Shame on Walmart and Kroger for price gouging these essential tests during the height of the worst pandemic surge.”

Critics also argued that the price hikes reflect the Biden administration’s failure to use its authority to ensure the universal availability of at-home coronavirus tests, which have been expensive and often difficult to obtain in the U.S. over the course of the pandemic. As of October, there were a total of 58 deaths. Vanity Fair reported The Biden White House rejected last month a plan to significantly increase test supply in the holiday season.

Jeff Hauser is the founder and director for The Revolving Door Project. demanded the firing of White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients, “whose failure to utilize the Defense Production Act for tests or [personal protective equipment] demonstrates a greater fealty to private profit than the public interest.”

Matthew Cortland is an attorney and healthcare advocate. warned that “the failure of the Biden administration to fully leverage the Defense Production Act and related legal authorities is costing American lives.”

Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary, declined to comment on Tuesday if the administration is working with Walmart and Kroger to lower the price of the BinaxNOW test.

“I can’t give you an update on any conversations,” Psaki said in response to a reporter’s question about the price hikes. “I can tell you that our objective is, of course, to increase and scale up access to free tests.”

To that end, Psaki said the White House is in the process of finalizing contracts for 500 million rapid Covid-19 tests that it intends to begin distributing to people who request them in the coming weeks — an idea Psaki mocked Just a month ago.

“When we have those deliveries in hand, we will put the website up, make it available so that people can order tests at that point in time,” Psaki told the press on Tuesday.

Public health experts and progressive lawmakers have argued that the administration’s plan — formally announced last month — is a welcome start but falls far short of what’s needed in the face of the ongoing Omicron wave, which has helped push U.S. cases to record levels.

Monday marked the official tally of a million new coronavirus cases in the country, a record worldwide. Nearly 860,000 more cases had been reported by Tuesday night. reported.

Hospitalizations are increasing as a result of rising infections trending upwardCampaigners are pressuring the Biden administration to respond by mailing an “ample and continuous supply” of free Covid-19 tests and high-quality masks to every household in the U.S. twice a month through at least May 2022.

“There are major steps we could be taking right now to ensure better access for all to both Covid-19 vaccines and tests,” Olivia Alperstein, media manager at the Institute for Policy Studies, tweeted Tuesday was the second day after Kroger and Walmart announced price increases. “When we aren’t proactive, this is what happens. Companies will not simply decide to take less of a profit during a health crisis unless we make them.”

The current situation is: Wall Street Journal noted Tuesday, “the cost and availability of tests [vary] widely” in the U.S., which has long lagged behind Other wealthy nations have also established strong testing infrastructures and made it easy to access at-home kits.

“BinaxNOW tests are hard to find online for $24 but can be purchased for twice the price,” the Journal reported. “At-home PCR tests are more readily available but generally cost close to $100 for a single 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.”

Paul Romer, a Nobel-Laureate and an economics professor at New York University told Bloomberg in a recent interview that “the way to assess the degree to which we’ve failed in the U.S. is, ‘How much time and money would someone have to spend to get a test right now?’”

“And it’s just crazy compared to the rest of the world,” said Romer, “and crazy compared to what it could be.”