Insurers Had Moved to Waive Covid-19 Testing OOP Before the Pence Announcement

March 10, 2020
Peter Wehrwein
Peter Wehrwein

AHIP posted a list on March 6

Vice President Mike Pence made a splashy announcement today in front of President Trump that major health insurers have agreed not to charge patient copays for coronavirus testing.

But a long list of insurers, including Aetna, Anthem, Cigna, UnitedHealthcare, and many Blues plans, had already taken steps to reduce or waive out-of-pocket costs for coronavirus testing.

AHIP posted a list on its blog and dated it March 6. You can see the list here.

It is a bit fuzzy just how broad the waiving of out-of-pocket fees will be. The summaries of the insurers’ policies in the AHIP blog post sometimes mention corona testing, other times also the costs associated with it. 

On March 2, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered insurers to waive cost sharing associated with testing for the novel coronavirus, "including emergency room, urgent care and office visits."  

In the summaries posted on the AHIP website, several companies mentioned that self-insured plans will be able to opt-in into their programs, so the clear implication is that self-insured plans have a choice on whether to join in on the waiving of out-of-pocket costs.

On March 3, CMS posted that Medicare Part B will cover a coronavirus test if it was ordered on or after February 4 of this year, well before the epidemic started.

In addition to waiving out-of-pocket costs, health insurers are taking steps to encourage the use of telehealth. Aetna, for example, is offering telemedicine visits without copays for any reason.