Top insurers commit to easing cost barriers to coronavirus testing

Insurance group America's Health Insurance Plans issued a statement Thursday saying it would work to mitigate the cost concerns around testing for coronavirus. (Getty/RossHelen)

Top insurers committed Thursday to mitigate the costs associated with testing for and treatment of the novel coronavirus that has begun spreading in the U.S.

The board of industry group America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP)—which includes the heads of top insurers like Humana, Anthem, CVS and Cigna—said in a statement they are committed to providing coverage for tests ordered by a physician. They also said they are working to ease network, referral and prior authorization requirements that could hinder access.

The group said their organizations would also potentially waive out-of-pocket costs for the tests.

"Health insurance providers will devote our resources, insights and abilities to collaborate with key partners to confront and resolve this challenge," AHIP said in a statement. "Working together with federal, state and community leaders; clinicians; pharmacies; drug makers; medical equipment providers; and other essential partners, we are confident that we can collectively overcome this challenge and keep the American people safe and healthy."

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The group said it would be teaming up with state and federal policymakers to allow for greater flexibility to change benefits or offer preventive services and treatments. Cigna was the first health plan to announce it would waive copayments and other cost-sharing on Thursday.

"During this time of heightened concern, Cigna's role is clear. We will do everything we can to help contain this virus, remove barriers to testing and treatment, especially for seniors and people who are chronically ill, and give peace of mind to those we serve," said David M. Cordani, Cigna CEO, in a statement. "This is another example of how, every day, we strive to stand by our customers through their life and health journeys."

Aetna announced similar measures Friday morning, saying it would waive copayments for tests and also provide telemedicine visits at no cost for the next 90 days.

CVS Health, Aetna's parent company, also said that it would send any member diagnosed with COVID-19 a care package that includes over-the-counter medications to ease symptoms and cleaning supplies to help avoid further spread.

"Supporting the health and well-being of our members and removing barriers to care are among our key areas of focus as we navigate the spread of COVID-19," said Karen Lynch, president of Aetna, in a statement. "That's why we're providing COVID-19 diagnostic testing and telemedicine visits with no out-of-pocket costs or cost-sharing for Aetna members, along with a number of other programs and offerings that reinforce our commitment to delivering timely and seamless access to care."

Health plans will also continue to use their platforms to ensure members have access to the most recent—and accurate—information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or other sources to spot the symptoms or navigate these conversations with their doctors.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement that she spoke with AHIP CEO Matt Eyles on the matter and commended the group and its board members for the announced plan.

"The Trump Administration is utilizing a whole-of-America approach, including working with our private partners, so that our entire healthcare system and our communities are activated and coordinated in our efforts to protect the American people," Verma said.