KFF: 4 out of 13 major insurers rely on mail and faxes to reimburse at-home COVID-19 tests

A new analysis found that six of 13 major insurers are relying on mail, fax and online options for consumers to get reimbursed for at-home COVID-19 tests, sparking questions over barriers consumers can face in getting payment for the tests.

The Kaiser Family Foundation analysis released Thursday examined the reimbursement practices at 13 major insurers with at least 1 million consumers as of Jan. 20. Commercial insurers had to start covering up to eight FDA-authorized COVID-19 rapid tests per person a month starting on Jan. 15.

Anthem, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Blue Shield of California, CareFirst, Cigna, Aetna, Kaiser Permanente, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, Centene, Humana, UnitedHealth Group and Guidewell and Health Care Service Corporation were the insurers examined by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Researchers found that six of the 13 insurers—Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, Health Care Service Corporation, Centene, Guidewell, Humana and UnitedHealth Group—had a direct coverage option where enrollees can purchase rapid tests at an in-network or preferred pharmacy. Consumers who seek an at-home test in an out-of-network retailer can use a mail or online option to get reimbursement.

The analysis also found the remaining seven insurers had other methods.

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It found that four of the insurers—Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Blue Shield of California, Care First and Cigna—required consumers to mail in receipts and a form to get reimbursement. Cigna also has a fax option.

“None of these appear to provide an e-mail or online submission,” Kaiser’s analysis said.

Anthem and Kaiser Permanente offered an online option for submitting a reimbursement form, while Aetna did not specify a method for reimbursement.

Kaiser Family Foundation’s analysis found inherent problems with some of the methods for reimbursement.

“Many people do not have easy access to printers or fax machines, required by some insurers for reimbursement, which will likely mean that some claims will never be submitted,” Kaiser said. “Additionally, as noted, this policy applies only to those with private insurance so those who are uninsured or those with other coverage will have to navigate different options, including ordering tests directly from the federal government (with a current limit of four per household).”