Most private insurers no longer waiving cost-sharing for COVID-19 treatment, report says

Coronavirus

HOUSTON, TX – JULY 2: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) A patient is connected to a ventilator and other medical devices in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on July 2, 2020 in Houston, Texas. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have spiked since Texas reopened, pushing intensive-care wards to full capacity and sparking concerns about a surge in fatalities as the virus spreads. (Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)

NEW YORK CITY (WROC) — Most of the nation’s largest private health insurance companies are no longer waiving cost-sharing for COVID-19 treatment, according to a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF).

According to the report, 72% of the two largest insurers in each state and DC (102 health plans) are no longer waiving costs associated with COVID-19 treatment, and another 10% of plans are phasing out waivers by the end of October.

“Of the 29 plans still waiving cost-sharing for COVID-19 treatment, 10 waivers are set to expire by the end of October,” authors of the KFF report said. “This includes waivers that tie to the end of the federal Public Health Emergency, which is currently set to expire on October 17, 2021, though may be extended. Another 12 plans state that their cost-sharing waivers will expire by the end of 2021. Two plans specified end dates for COVID-19 treatment waivers in 2022 and 5 plans did not specify an expiration date.”

Earlier in the pandemic, most people (88% according to KFF) of people enrolled in fully insured private health care plans would have had their out-of-pocket costs waived if they were hospitalized with COVID-19.

“At the time, health insurers were highly profitable due to lower-than-expected health care use, while hospitals and health care workers were overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients,” authors of the KFF report said. “Insurers may have also wanted to be sympathetic toward COVID-19 patients, and some may have also feared the possibility of a federal mandate to provide care free-of-charge to COVID-19 patients, so they voluntarily waived these costs for at least some period of time during the pandemic.

However, with safe and effective vaccines widely available, the environment has shifted.

“As vaccines have become widely available to adults in the U.S. and health care utilization has rebounded more generally, health insurers may no longer face political or public relations pressure to continue waiving costs for COVID-19 treatment,” the report said. “As more waivers expire, more people hospitalized for COVID-19 – the vast majority of whom are unvaccinated – will likely receive significant medical bills for their treatment.”

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