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Coronavirus Coverage and Costs, Questions and Answers

With so much information about the coronavirus circulating, it’s key that we look out not only for our health, but also for how to understand our health coverage.

As COVID-19, or the coronavirus, has spread across the nation, you’re likely to have many questions. What can I do to keep myself and my family safe? What happens if I get it? How will it affect my work and leisure time?

And, critically if you live in the United States: what is it going to cost me?

With so much information being provided in so many areas, we must not only look out for our health but also understand how our health coverage will come into play.

With these considerations in mind, here are some questions and answers to help you better understand and navigate your health coverage in this unprecedented times, especially if you have a high deductible health plan (HDHP) with a health savings account (HSA).

Am I covered for a COVID-19 test?

According to Vice President Pence’s coronavirus task force, yes. Many of the nation’s largest insurers have announced that they will cover COVID-19 testing costs as part of your health insurance plan, and so will Medicare. States like New York have also announced that they will require insurers to cover coronavirus-related costs in other ways.

And luckily for those with HDHPs and an HSA, the IRS announced that they have classified COVID-19 tests and related expenses as permissible pre-deductible expenses. In plain English, this means that you can get tested and have your insurance cover the cost of that test before you pay your own money. The great hope is that people who may otherwise put off getting tested because they don’t have the money to pay for it will now not have to worry about that cost. So, get tested!

But again, you want to make sure that your health plan is actually covering your testing costs before assuming they are. If you currently have health insurance and want to find out if and how coronavirus testing is covered, your best bet is to 

  • Log into your health plan member portal and see if they have provided you with an update about testing coverage
  • Call the number on your insurance ID card, or 
  • Ask your HR manager (if you receive your coverage through an employer)

What if I don’t have health insurance?

If you’re not currently covered, you are likely to have to pay for a test and other expenses out of your own pocket. However, before you do, check to see if your state has announced plans to cover testing costs.

Additionally, if you are eligible for individual health coverage (i.e. you don’t qualify for employer-based, Medicare or Medicaid coverage), some states (Washington and Massachusetts) have begun a special enrollment period (SEP) so that you can sign up for health insurance and get your testing and other costs covered, so long as you pay your monthly health insurance premium.

How much does it cost to get tested?

While a standard price hasn’t been named yet by Medicare, tests have generally run around several hundred dollars. But some people have paid into the several thousands of dollars when seeking treatment through an emergency room. This amount is likely to vary widely based on where and how you get it—i.e. you still need to make sure the coverage you’re getting is “in-network” to your health insurance provider to avoid a surprise medical bill.

You will also want to call your primary care provider and/or local urgent care to see if they are able to perform the test and, if so, how much it will cost you.

But I thought you said my insurance will cover it?

They will, but in some cases, especially if you have an HDHP, you may be required to pay all or part of the testing costs out of your own pocket. Again, this can change based on the company providing your insurance and the type of plan you have with them, so start by checking with them to see what’s covered and what you will pay.

What will it cost if I get sick?

Treatment costs can vary widely depending on your location and the severity of your condition. If you are hospitalized, then your costs will easily run into the thousands of dollars. But again, it’s most important to check with your insurer to see what they may cover vs. what you will have to pay. The good news, for now, is that the Federal government and some state governments have at least acknowledged that this new virus is enough of a health threat that they will cover as much as they can.

You need to check your deductible payment requirements, copay, coinsurance and maximum out-of-pocket costs to ensure you know what you might spend vs. what your insurance might spend.

Can I get help from any other source?

Definitely check with your employer or contingent company to see if they have a relief plan or fund in place. Many companies have begun offering two weeks or more of paid sick leave for those diagnosed with COVID-19 who need to be home while under quarantine.

Likewise, companies may have funds set up to help workers pay for other costs related to the virus. For example, Starship is partnered with Postmates to provide its couriers with funding toward COVID-19 testing and others costs.

Bottom line: there is a concerted public/private effort to defray as much of the individual costs of preventing and treating COVID-19 as is possible. And the more people are infected, the more it will cost everyone. So do yourself, your family, and your neighbors around the country and around the world a favor and get tested if you feel any symptoms.

Stay tuned to Starship for more information about navigating the U.S. insurance landscape during this time.


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