Health insurers are jumping on board to provide free diagnostic and telemedicine services to members at high-risk of having the new coronavirus, COVID-19.
The costs associated with testing and care could prove to be barriers for those positive with the virus, which has claimed 10 lives in the U.S. and infected nearly 100 people as of March 5. Global cases of the disease, which includes symptoms such as cough, fever and trouble breathing, have topped 100,000.
Aetna, which is owned by CVS Health, will waive member fees for testing related to COVID-19, including copays. The health insurer will also provide telemedicine visits for any reason for free for the next 90 days. Telemedicine can lessen the risk of exposure to healthcare professionals and other patients at healthcare facilities. Aetna has decided to extend its Medicare Advantage virtual evaluation and monitoring visit benefit with full coverage to commercial members.
"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," Karen S. Lynch, president of Aetna and executive vice president of CVS Health, said 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."
Both actions by Aetna have been recommended by several industry groups, including America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), where Aetna is among its members.
Aetna also noted it is planning to send members who have tested positive for COVID-19 a care package with over-the-counter medications to relieve their symptoms as well as cleaning supplies to limit the risk to others in the household. Lastly, CVS Health noted it is opening crisis response lines for Aetna members who need help related to the new coronavirus; bringing its Aetna Nurse Medical Line, which is open 24/7, to all Aetna and Caremark members; and equipping plans sponsors to help treat with members with COVID-19-related anxiety though a Resources for Living toolkit with disease-specific materials.
Another major insurer, Cigna, similarly has opted to waive fees for its members who may need testing for coronavirus. This includes all copays or cost-shares, the company noted. Testing is currently available through the CDC at no cost and commercial testing is expected to “expand shortly,” according to Cigna’s announcement.
Cigna is waiving copays, coinsurance or deductibles for customers, including those enrolled in the company’s employer-sponsored plans in the U.S., Medicare Advantage, Medicaid and Affordable Care Act plans.
Cigna is also offering a 24/7 customer service resource center dedicated to those with coronavirus-related claims. The phone line aims to connect patients to qualified providers for support and guidance.