“Private insurers will soon have to cover the cost of eight at-home coronavirus tests per member per month, the Biden administration said Monday. People will be able to get the tests at their health plan’s ‘preferred’ pharmacies and other retailers with no out-of-pocket costs, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. They can also buy the tests elsewhere and file claims for reimbursement.” — The New York Times, 01/10/22

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Welcome, weary traveler! We’ve heard tell that you wish to possess an at-home COVID-19 test, and thereafter recuperate the burdensome cost it wreaks upon your homestead. Fear not! We, the private health insurance industry, have put forth simple steps to remedy this very quandary.

You must first embark the Winding Road of Bartizon to discover the lair of Gornthall the Wizard. Greet him warmly—and if you are true of heart, he will gaze into his Cauldron of Prophecies, speak the words, “COVID test near me,” and conjure a mystical directory of local apothecaries that carry the apparatus. (The Cauldron of Prophecies is updated only once every seventy-two turns-of-the-hourglass, so it will not necessarily reflect current availability.)

Once your test has been obtained, approach the Bridge of Despair and prepare to strike a covenant with Grundrar the Troll. He will demand three offspring. You may accept his terms and proceed immediately—or spend three Earth rotations on the phone with Grundrar Customer Service to bargain him down to just your firstborn.

Listen to a bard play an ever-so-slightly off-key cover of a popular song on a lyre ad infinitum. Your ears shall bleed.

Injured during your travels? You may find the Ultimate Elixir of Fantastical Healing. Do not drink from this. It is not covered by your current questing plan. You must try the Tonic That Will Give You Indigestion, the Weird Mushroom You Found On the Ground That Looks Kind of Edible, and the Potion of Certain Death first. Then, and only then, may you consider the Elixir.

Whisper the ancient spell of Zortroff while wielding the staff of Blontimere to open the Blood-Curdling Portal of Cigna. The portal may take four moons to open (if at all); it could release a torrent of hellish horrors from an alternate dimension; or, most likely, it will reveal you owe twenty thousand gold pieces from a dermatologist appointment seven years ago. You should really figure that out.

Wait five months on an empty road. A lone messenger will give you an ancient parchment. IT IS NOT A BILL!

Ah, look! It seems a companion would like to join you on your quest! Unfortunately, because all village inns are desperately overcapacity, only immediate family members can be by your side when you’re looking to replenish your health. So the question falls upon you: Do you feel ready to wed Igbar the Ogre, if only for paperwork purposes?

Find the Mountain of Dread. Stumble upon an outcropping that resembles a wizened crone’s fingernail and slink through the crack therein. Descend the rocky stairs into a realm even light dares not enter. Trudge for hours and you may find a wall. On that wall is an ancient numeral that, if uttered, can banish illness! There are also a bunch of other numbers that mean literally nothing. Ignore those. But they’ll be in the same size, color, and font as the important number.

Some people may offer to ferry you on this perilous journey. They are known as Elves of Medicinal Tutelage (or EMTs). DO NOT ACCEPT THEIR HELP. You will have to pay for it out-of-satchel.

Gaze upon the Endless Abyss of Garthongal. A creature of untold millennia will emerge and whisper one word into your ear. This cosmic knowledge will instantly drive you mad. You must scream. You can only scream. Those screams may be recorded for future training and quality assurance purposes.

There are two doors. One leads to the exit you seek; the other, certain doom. In front of the doors is Morgshor the Ghoul. He will reveal which is which only if you correctly solve his riddles three. Consider them deeply, proffer your answers, then wait five lunar cycles for a written confirmation of the answers to the riddles three via post to an outdated home address.

(For the uninsured: there is a separate, far more treacherous labyrinth deep underground. Most of it is not yet built; the rest has quickly fallen to ruin. Within that maze, there is a half-man, half-beast guarding the exit. The exit is open only for two weeks in December. The walls of the maze are built with the corpses of those who tried to leave the maze outside this period. For more information, visit beastmaze.gov. Keep refreshing your browser.)

At last, upon completing the above trials, you will finally be deemed worthy to obtain and equip an at-home COVID-19 test. Of course, no matter what it reveals, you will want to confirm with a PCR test. We will not pay for that.