In a welcome announcement on March 10th 2020 Vice President Pence made public the offer by major Health Insurance Companies to ‘waive all copays on coronavirus testing in all their benefit plans’.

Last week Medicare and Medicaid, on instructions from President Trump, made a similar announcement to their beneficiaries that coronavirus testing would be covered. Bruce Broussard, Humana’s chief executive, confirmed his company’s focus on ensuring that seniors (the group most vulnerable to COVID-19) on Medicare plans “can get tested as easily as possible”.

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The insurance companies have also agreed to cover the costs of ‘telemedicine’. Anyone concerned not to pass on an infection, particularly the elderly, should not feel it necessary to go to a hospital or visit their doctor as they can be assessed remotely (Telemedicine).

What does it mean to me?

Quite simply, it means that if you are experiencing coronavirus-like symptoms you can call your Doctor’s office to arrange a testing without worrying about the possible cost. Thanks to Telemedicine you may not even need to leave home.  If your plan is ACA compliant and your chosen provider is in-network there should be no doubt. Just to be sure you should call your insurer to be certain that they ARE one of the companies who agree to waive copays for coronavirus tests.  If you bought your insurance cover through an Exchange you can contact them for confirmation.  Don’t let there be any surprises.

If you are on a group plan (normally through your Employer or Union) talk to your coordinator or HR department) to check your coverage.

Matt Eyles, president of the industry trade group ‘America’s Health Insurance Plans’, in their meeting told President Trump, “we all have the same commitment to making sure that cost is not a barrier to getting people tested”.

What does it mean to all of us?

While scientists, in America and all over the world, work in collaboration to find a cure for COVID-19 there is a part we can all play.  That is to slow the spread of this ‘NEW DISEASE’. 

The best means is to test, to identify those people who are infected.  These tests, which distinguish between the common flu virus and COVID-19, achieve three things:

  • The all clear

You may be prescribed medication for non-specific flu infection.  This does not mean that you are immune and you should continue to take precautions.

In case of positive identification of COVID-19

  • Reduce the risk of infecting others

In the vast majority of cases the prescribed course of action will be ‘isolation’ i.e. restricted contact with others for a period of up to 14 days.

  • The earliest opportunity to:-
    provide the best healthcare for the individual. In a small number of cases (<5%), chronic or pre-existing conditions may require hospitalization and medical support.

Your health insurance company is making this possible but it is your responsibility to request tests only if you have the following symptoms: –

  • Fever
  • Cough (dry)
  • Shortness of breath

YOU ARE AWARE OF CONTACT (within 2 meters) OF AN INDIVUAL YOU NOW KNOW TO HAVE BEEN INFECTED WITH COVID-19.

If you have no symptoms you should resist the temptation to request an assessment or a test.  Tests are not useful if you do not exhibit the typical symptoms of seasonal ‘flu.

Larry Levitt, a vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, has drawn attention to the country’s complex medical billing system: “it’s not always as simple as promising to make coronavirus testing and treatment free”. Historically insurers have resisted Congress’s attempts to protect consumers from ‘surprise’ medical bills.  Nevertheless, executives from industry leading companies such as United Health Group, Anthem, Cigna and the Blue Shield Blue Cross Association heard Mike Pence state that the insurance companies’ pledge to make coronavirus testing free would cover almost 240 million Americans.

MS Handelman representing BCBS, whose plans insure one in three Americans, said “we are pleased to make sure that people have access to the test and the coverage they need”.

Despite these commitments it is important to contact your insurer before you arrange a test.  The last thing you need is the dreaded ‘surprise’ billing (see our article, ‘when is a surprise not a surprise?’).

Read about treatment and prevention of Coronavirus