General Question

janbb's avatar

Is it moral to request the free government home Covid tests if you can afford to buy them?

Asked by janbb (60255points) January 18th, 2022

I’ve been mulling this over since the program was announced. I realize that tests for purchase are not readily available right now but there will be a lag in receiving the government tests too. If one can afford the $20 or $30 for a pack of two tests, is it fair to get them from the government as well?

Bonus question: I’ve seen a few posts about the USPS sending out free tests if you apply there. This seems to be different from the CDC program. Does anyone know if they are the same?

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25 Answers

canidmajor's avatar

I am continuing to buy my own, because it is no hardship for me and I can easily avoid contact. If I was still out there, I might order from the government.

ETA by “out there” I mean working around others, not having the tests for convenience so I can be being more social.

product's avatar

Yes, 100%. If you want to apply ethics to this, it’s not going to fall on you or anyone ordering them. It is with the system that has given us shortages, commodification, and crappy websites to order things that should have been shipped to everyone for the past 2 years. Order them and sleep well.

canidmajor's avatar

I agree with you mostly, @product, except that we know how this stuff works, and the system will likely overload very quickly, and I don’t want to contribute to that.

product's avatar

^ Fair enough. If you don’t want to contribute to the shitshow, that makes sense. But as a “moral” question, @janbb most definitely is not being unethical by ordering these tests.

janbb's avatar

I don’t agree @product . We rail against crappy systems all we want and that is definitely true but we should also take individual actions that either help or hinder systems.

product's avatar

I’m out. This is a core disagreement we’ve had in every area based on our fundamental political/ethical ideologies. Do what you think is right. Peace.

janbb's avatar

@product I agree. It makes sense.

rebbel's avatar

I got a coupon for two free tests, in the summer, I think, but I didn’t order them.
Then, after a while, I bought two (haven’t used them yet).
Then, when some family members got a cold, a few weeks ago, I thought it a good idea to order those two free ones, but that deal had already finished months ago… :-)
I was a bit opportunistic, I guess, with said deal.
First I couldn’t care, then I thought why not.
I didn’t have a problem going for those free ones, as the paid ones are pretty affordable for everybody.
Around €3 ($3.40)

elbanditoroso's avatar

I think that the price is not relevant.

You’re a citizen of the US, and therefore, by right, entitled to your allocation of tests. One could argue that by not claiming your tests, you are not fulfilling your rights and duties as a citizen in consuming that which the government bought for you.

Extending that thought, you are wasting money because if too few people use the government-provided tests, they will expire and be thrown away – basically wasted. So the fiscally responsible thing to do is to claim and use the US-bought tests.

capet's avatar

I’m in the same position as you. Personally, I think it’s a balance between a bunch of different factors. This creates a lot of uncertainty for me as to whether it’s the right thing to do. It’s also a very small decision. Because it’s so small and uncertain, I decided to not sweat it and ordered my free tests today.

Here are some of the factors that I was thinking about:
1. Buying the tests might help encourage the private sector to make more tests.
2. Buying the tests might slightly help the government finances.
3. Getting the free tests might encourage the government to procure more tests and take more interest in COVID.
4. Getting the free tests might encourage me to be safer. Theoretically I should just be safe anyway, but I’m not perfect.

For me, 1 and 2 are cons and 3 and 4 are pros. Personally, I think our society has more of a problem rejecting decisive voluntary public health actions than we do with low pharmaceutical profits or weak government finances. So #3 is the decisive factor for me.

janbb's avatar

@capet I agree. I’m not sweating it either but I thought it an interesting question to raise. And I have decided to order the free ones for some of the same reasons.

filmfann's avatar

The government’s reaction to Covid hasn’t always been well reasoned.
For example, last year we got thousands of dollars to help us through the pandemic. Since I am retired, the pandemic had no financial effect on me. Prisoners also received these payments, which is ridiculous.
That said, I don’t have too many issues with receiving free Covid tests. I wouldn’t buy one to have “just in case”, but I am glad to have one. You never know

KNOWITALL's avatar

I don’t believe that it’s a moral issue. We’re in a pandemic, get the free tests and don’t infect anyone else and I’m good with that.

SnipSnip's avatar

When you go to order them, read the the fine print first.

canidmajor's avatar

@SnipSnip Cuz, you know, my address is such a secret.

JLeslie's avatar

You could look at it many ways. I ordered the four tests. If any of my friends ever need it I will give them one. When it gets close to expiration date I will advertise for anyone who needs the test at that time. I will do the same with the one I paid for. It would be nice if people coordinate that in the community, I might try to do something. Maybe give them to the schools in the poorer areas here if they don’t have them already from the state or county as tests near expiration so they don’t go to waste.

I found out right after I ordered them that my insurance will pay for tests, so I guess it’s better for people with no insurance to have the free ones available to them, but just because my insurance will pay doesn’t mean there will be one on the shelf. That’s why I already bought one previously.

What I want the government to do is force/regulate the price of at-home tests. Stop the gouging at wholesale and retail so we don’t have to spend so much tax dollars on this, and so especially poor people have free tests of very cheep tests.

JLeslie's avatar

@SnipSnip What was the fine print?

canidmajor's avatar

@JLeslie Here ya go:
” Your information will be used to provide COVID-19 Testing Kits to the address you provided, and to provide company and product fulfillment information about that testing kit to a federal executive agency. Collection is authorized by 39 U.S.C. 401, 403, 404, and 411. Supplying your information is voluntary, but if not provided, we may not be able to fulfill your request for a COVID-19 Testing Kit. We do not disclose your information to third parties without your consent, except to act on your behalf or request, or as legally required. This includes the following limited circumstances: to a congressional office on your behalf; to agencies and entities to facilitate or resolve financial transactions; to a U.S. Postal Service auditor; for law enforcement purposes, to labor organizations as required by applicable law; incident to legal proceedings involving the Postal Service; to government agencies in connection with decisions as necessary; to agents or contractors when necessary to fulfill a business function or provide products and services to customers; for customer service purposes; and to other federal executive agencies pursuant to 39 U.S.C § 411. For more information regarding our privacy policies visit www.usps.com/privacypolicy.”

gorillapaws's avatar

I’m of the belief philosophically that government benefits and services should be distributed equitably to all and never means tested. That means a billionaire can enjoy a library without having to pay some kind of usage fee, just as everyone else. All people share in the benefits equally. All have a vested stake in those things being run well.

Progressive taxation is how you capture the revenue to pay for such benefits.

Applying this philosophy, I see no moral concerns about using the free tests, and really the concern is the cost of tests in the first-place.

JLeslie's avatar

I think technically I can get 8 (two orders) because we also have an address in Tennessee. I’m not doing it, that does seem greedy and misplaced to me. My husband can just take the kit I bought originally to TN. Ironically, that means couples who can afford two residences can probably order two sets. The restrictions seem to be one per address, or maybe if it’s worded by household then maybe not.

You all may know in Florida we had a million expired tests, I’m not sure why they weren’t given away more. I heard they are extending the expiration on them, which I completely agree with if there is no evidence that they have less efficacy a month or two after the date.

I’m glad the Florida health department thought to order some, I just think it was too many. It seems prudent to have some on hand, except that they didn’t get them out to the public, which is really crappy, and they expired during the most likely time the virus would be exploding, that was foreseeable and bad planning. People say DeSantis didn’t want people to know they were sick. That makes no sense! The more people test at home, the lower the Florida reported numbers will be. Home tests are not in the state numbers.

@canidmajor Thanks! I’m ok with all of that. I thought maybe it was something about we shouldn’t apply for one if over a certain income or something like that, since that was part of the conversation here.

jca2's avatar

Some government benefits are for everyone, regardless of income or other factors. Some government benefits are income-based. They’re not saying “low income only” or “only if you can’t buy them for yourself should you take these.” This government benefit (the covid tests) has nothing attached to it about being income based. They have tests for everyone and they want you to have them, therefore, I take without guilt.

Jeruba's avatar

I ordered mine thus evening and did not feel there was anything unethical about it, any more than I thought it wrong to receive free vaccinations or would think it wrong to accept free masks if the government offered them. I’m a citizen and I pay my taxes.

Caravanfan's avatar

Of course it is. They’re overpriced anyway.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Ordered mine today (1/19) – I wonder how long it will take the USPS to deliver.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@elbanditoroso I ordered mine Tuesday, site says they begin shipping late January. Will try to let you know but you should have a tracking number.

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