Insurers, Gov’t Officials Mobilize to Ease Coronavirus Costs

As the new coronavirus continues to spread throughout the world, the U.S. federal government, states and private health insurers have responded with a flurry of actions aimed at lowering cost barriers that could discourage people from getting tested or treated. But health policy experts tell AIS Health that the sheer number of such announcements lays bare one of the U.S. health care system’s biggest flaws — its decentralized nature.

More than 40 different health insurers so far have stepped forward to unveil new coronavirus-related policies, according to a running list compiled by America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP). Many are waiving cost-sharing and prior-authorization requirements for members who need to get tested for the virus, and some of them are also waiving deductibles. Other measures include relaxing restrictions on telehealth and prescription refills, and opening emotional-support help lines. However, most of the new cost-sharing policies apply only to fully insured commercial plans, Medicaid managed care and/or Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, as employers have more discretion when it comes to self-insured health plans.

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Leslie Small

Leslie Small

Leslie has been working in journalism since 2009 and reporting on the health care industry since 2014. She has covered the many ups and downs of the Affordable Care Act exchanges, the failed health insurer mega-mergers, and hundreds of other storylines spanning subjects such as Medicaid managed care, Medicare Advantage, employer-sponsored insurance, and prescription drug coverage. As the managing editor of Health Plan Weekly and Radar on Drug Benefits, she writes and edits for both publications while overseeing a small team of reporters who also focus on the managed care sector. Before joining AIS Health, she was a senior editor for the e-newsletter Fierce Health Payer, and she started her career as a copy editor at multiple local newspapers. She graduated with a dual degree in journalism and political science from Penn State University.

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