March 5, 2020 / 10:17 PM / a month ago

U.S. insurers working to ease coronavirus out-of-pocket costs

(Reuters) - The U.S. health insurance industry’s largest trade group on Thursday said it is addressing prevention, testing and treatment for the new coronavirus, including making sure that out-of-pocket costs do not prevent people from seeking care.

America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) said its members, which include Cigna Corp (CI.N) and Anthem Inc (ANTM.N), will cover diagnostic testing when ordered by a doctor, ease network, referral and prior authorization requirements and/or waive patient cost sharing.

The group also said it will “take action so that patients will have continuous access to their regular prescription medications.”

Washington state on Thursday issued an emergency order requiring all state-regulated health insurers to waive co-payments and deductibles for any consumer requiring testing for the new coronavirus.

Some healthcare experts have expressed concern that the type of patient cost sharing seen in many U.S. health plans might make some Americans hesitate to visit a doctor, even if they have valid reasons to be concerned about contracting the virus.

Cigna, in a separate statement, said its customers will have access to COVID-19 testing, as prescribed by health practitioners, and the insurer will waive all co-pays or cost-shares to help fight the rapid spread of the virus.

Cigna said it will cover the medical test similar to a preventive benefit for fully-insured plans - waiving co-pays, coinsurance or deductibles for customers. Those plans include Cigna’s employer-sponsored plans in the United States, Medicare Advantage, Medicaid and the Individual & Family plans available through the Affordable Care Act. The insurer said organizations that offer Administrative Services Only (ASO) plans will also have the option to include coronavirus testing as a preventive benefit.

Washington state’s order also says that if an insurer does not have enough medical providers in its network to provide testing and treatment for COVID-19, it must allow enrollees to be treated by another provider within a reasonable distance at no additional cost.

The fast-spreading coronavirus has reached some 80 nations with more new cases now reported outside China where the flu-like illness first emerged late last year.

The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 stands at 12. More than 3,200 worldwide have died from the respiratory illness that can lead to pneumonia.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday reported 149 confirmed and presumed U.S. cases. They are presumed not to include any of the new cases reported on Thursday.

Reporting By Deena Beasley; editing by Diane Craft

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