Removing the cost barrier for patients will allow increased access to testing, which is critical as commercial labs ramp up their testing in Pennsylvania and across the country.
All 10 major health insurance companies in Pennsylvania have agreed to cover all costs for “medically appropriate” testing for coronavirus, or COVID-19, Gov. Tom Wolf announced this week.
In doing so, the companies agree to waive any cost-sharing for coronavirus tests, meaning any Pennsylvanian with comprehensive insurance coverage from one of the 10 companies will not be charged deductibles, co-pays, or other fees for coronavirus tests or other tests ordered by the patient’s doctor. These fees will also be waived for residents who receive coverage through Medicare or Medicaid.
The 10 insurers waiving co-pays and all cost-sharing include: Aetna, Capital Blue Cross, Cigna, Geisinger, Highmark, Independence BlueCross, Oscar Pennsylvania Health & Wellness, UnitedHealthcare, and UPMC Health Plan.
Wolf emphasized the importance of the agreement in a statement.
“Pennsylvania insurers proactively waiving costs associated with COVID-19 testing for consumers helps the commonwealth identify additional cases and gives us a better opportunity to increase our resources appropriately and better protect all Pennsylvanians,” Wolf said.
Pennsylvania joins states like California, Maryland, New York, and Washington state where major insurers have also waived co-pays and cost-sharing related to coronavirus tests. Some insurers, such as Cigna and Anthem, have waived all co-pays and cost-sharing related to coronavirus testing in every state they provide coverage in.
The Trump administration, for its part, has praised insurers for waiving co-pays. That same administration, however, has also repeatedly undermined the Affordable Care Act, attempted to gut Medicaid, and suggested they might cut Medicare—thus threatening coverage for millions of Americans. As recently as 2019, the president has also encouraged consumers to buy short-term insurance plans, which notably may not cover the cost of coronavirus tests.
Removing cost barriers for patients, as some insurers have, will allow increased access to testing, which is critical as commercial labs ramp up their testing in Pennsylvania and across the country.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state labs previously conducted all tests and covered the cost with public funds, but private companies like Lab Corp. have begun testing for the virus as well, prompting a rising fear that Americans might skip testing over concerns about the cost.
“No Pennsylvanian should forego testing for any reason, if deemed medically necessary, including fear of what it might cost,” Wolf said.
There are currently 14 presumptive cases of coronavirus in the state, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. As of Wednesday morning, no one has died from the outbreak in Pennsylvania.
Nationwide, there are at least 747 confirmed cases in the United States, though the real number is likely much higher given the weeks-long delay in testing. Twenty-six Americans have died from the virus so far. Globally, the outbreak has sickened more than 116,000 people in 103 countries, killing 4,082.
While Monday’s announcement is certain to help many Pennsylvanians, Wolf’s news release notes that some consumers who have excepted benefit policies, short-term, limited duration health insurance plans, or health care sharing ministries “need to understand these plans can have significant limitations on coverage and may not provide the same level of access.”
Officials suggested that anyone with questions or concerns should contact their insurer or the Pennsylvania Department of Insurance at 877-881-6388. The department has also posted a Frequently Asked Questions on insurance coverage of the testing.