When it’s not busy chasing the phantoms it believes are responsible for inflation, the Biden administration is still wrestling with the coronavirus pandemic. For the last few weeks, the big push on that front has bene more tests – and free ones, at that, sent to people’s homes through the U.S. mail.

It’s exactly the kind of government-first plan we’ve come to expect from Team Biden. But there’s a twist with this one: the administration is going to mandate that insurance companies cover the costs of those “free” tests.

As anyone with a job and bills to pay, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Someone pays. And as Elizabeth Nolan Brown writes, forcing insurance to pay for tests is a guaranteed way to drive up the cost and create more red tape:

…the upfront cost of tests might go down for consumers with health insurance (though of course, the more “free” services are mandated, the more the overall price of health insurance goes up). But tests will remain expensive for the many, many Americans who don’t have insurance—a group that’s likely more price-sensitive than those who do.

Upfront testing costs could also remain prohibitive for those whose insurance companies will only reimburse them for tests after they purchase them and fill out the requisite paperwork. Plus, the price of testing will stay high for organizations, venues, and events providing tests for staff, attendees, etc.

All of this limits the likelihood of more widespread testing and the benefits it could bring.

And that’s not the only snag with the Biden administration’s new plan for tests. If folks with insurance are allowed to obtain eight “free” tests per month, many will be inclined to snag those tests even if they don’t currently need them. And a subset of people stockpiling tests when they’re still in short supply could lead to an even greater test shortage, making it even harder than it is now for many who need tests to find them.

Instead of building a system designed to fail, Mr. Biden could lean on the FDA to speed up the adoption of rapid tests agency has slow-boated from the pandemic’s start. More tests means less costs means achieving the testing goals more quickly.

But Team Biden has defaulted for costly, slow, and ineffective. Very on-brand.