(Updated and corrected, March 25, 2022: This post originally said the Ellume test was a 2-pack, but it’s actually a single test.) At the Rite-Aid in Grand Central at the checkout counter, two 2-packs of Covid at-home tests were for sale next to each other on March 20. Can you guess which was $38.99 for two and which was $19.99 for two?
The answer: The Ellume 2-pack was $38.99 and the iHealth 2-pack was $19.99. Both have two at-home tests. (Note correction below.)
What’s the difference? Why is one more expensive than the other?
Both have an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.
The Ellume Covid-19 home test was not available on Amazon on March 20. You can find it at Target and Rite-Aid, among other places, with a price tag from $34.99 to $38.99 at first glance (see screenshot). The Australia-based biotech company Ellume had a recall in the autumn of 2021 because the Food and Drug Administration said the tests could produce a “false positive.”
We’ve written about pricing differences for at-home tests before, for example here and here, including some documentation about price-gouging during the Omicron surge in December. We’ve also written a lot about differences in non-home testing, for example here and here.
(Update March 23: A Facebook commenter wrote, “We bought some Ellume tests last year. They were recalled and the company website is set up as an impossible loop so it was not possible to get a refund no matter how much time you spend. And they were much more than $39 at the time. Not recommended.”)
(Update March 24: A Facebook commenter wrote: “The Ellume test offers video observation which qualifies it for travel purposes, explaining its higher cost. And that’s not a 2-pack. It’s a single test.” The commenter is right: I wrote that it’s a 2-pack, but indeed the box says 2+ on the front, meaning it can be used on people 2 and up. She added that the single test can be proctored, and used for certain air travel, as noted in this piece from The Points Guy.
(The commenter also said “The article said it then (7/2021) came with a complimentary second test to be used if the first failed, but the video observation service by Azova Health can only be used once.” )
What have you paid for a 2-pack? Or for one test?
Jeanne Pinder is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded ClearHealthCosts.
She was previously a fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at the Columbia University School of Journalism. ClearHealthCosts has won grants from the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York; the International Women’s Media Foundation; the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with KQED public radio in San Francisco and KPCC in Los Angeles; the Lenfest Foundation in Philadelphia for a partnership with The Philadelphia Inquirer; and the New York State Health Foundation for a partnership with WNYC public radio/Gothamist in New York; and other honors.
Her TED talk about fixing health costs has surpassed 2 million views.