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Coronavirus Copay Testing Covered, Health Insurers Say (Corrected)

March 15, 2020, 3:33 PMUpdated: March 16, 2020, 1:42 PM

Health insurers are dropping coronavirus testing copayments and some are waiving requirements that treatments be approved in advance as they roll out details for tackling the infection.

However, insurers stopped short of waiving out-of-pocket costs for treatments. Out-of-pocket costs may still apply in accordance with a person’s coverage policy, according to a spokeswoman for America’s Health Insurance Plans.

America’s Health Insurance Plans has begun posting what individual health insurers have pledged to do. Most of the plans are waiving copayments for diagnostic testing related to Covid-19. That includes Aetna, Anthem, the 36 Blue Cross Blue Shield Association plans, Cigna, and Humana.

Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield is “covering any illness related to the coronavirus that results in a need for standard covered medical treatment” without prior authorization. It will cover Covid-19 diagnostic testing at no cost to members, according to AHIP’s website.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts will cover the cost of a Covid-19 vaccine when it’s available as well as waive copayments for treatment at doctors’ offices, emergency rooms, and urgent care centers. It also removed prior authorization requirements, AHIP said.

Insurers are also promoting the use of telehealth, and some are allowing early access to refills of prescription medications.

Public Citizen criticized health insurers for not covering the full cost of treatment rather than just the out-of-pocket costs for testing.

“It’s outrageous that during the worst health crisis facing our country in decades, insurers want to make clear that they still plan to profit from the treatment of coronavirus victims,” Melinda St. Louis, director of Public Citizen’s Medicare for All Campaign, said.

If costs are waived for tests, but not for treatment, people who test positive for the coronavirus may not be able to afford treatment and will continue to infect others, she said.

A House bill passed Saturday includes free testing for everyone who needs it and two weeks of paid sick leave to allow people with the virus to stay home from work and avoid infecting co-workers. It also includes enhanced jobless benefits, increased food aid for children, senior citizens and food banks, and higher funding for Medicaid benefits. The bill is awaiting a vote in the Senate, but President Donald Trump has indicated he backs the measure.

(Corrects the second paragraph of the March 15 story to say that insurers won't cover out-of-pocket costs for treatments.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Sara Hansard in Washington at shansard@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Fawn Johnson at fjohnson@bloomberglaw.com; Andrew Childers at achilders@bloomberglaw.com

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