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Covid-19 Testing Could Cost Insurers Billions of Dollars Yearly

June 10, 2020, 3:30 PM

Health insurers could have to spend as much as $25 billion per year for Covid-19 diagnostic tests and up to $19 billion per year for antibody tests, the industry’s trade association said Wednesday.

Diagnostic testing likely will cost $6 billion to $25 billion annually, and antibody testing could cost $5 billion to $19 billion annually, according to the study conducted for America’s Health Insurance Plans by Wakely Consulting Group LLC.

The total costs of testing will be less than the combination of costs for diagnostic and antibody tests due to uncertainty over how testing strategies will be deployed, including what tests will be used and how many tests a person may receive, AHIP said.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act enacted in March requires most private health plans to cover coronavirus testing with no cost sharing during the public health emergency. While health insurers are generally experiencing lower claims due to care deferrals, testing adds to their overall costs, which in turn could lead to higher premiums.

Another report released Wednesday by the American Academy of Actuaries found that the pandemic has created new uncertainties related to the development of premium rates next year.

Health insurers are seeing bills for coronavirus tests as high as $1,000. Those prices, almost 2,000% of what Medicare pays for the same test, aren’t the norm but they are an indication of the range of prices providers are charging, insurers say.

The testing cost study follows an updated report released Tuesday by AHIP, which found that treatment costs for Covid-19 could cost as much as $547 billion for insurers in 2020 and 2021.

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; Alexis Kramer at akramer@bloomberglaw.com

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