Anthem is the latest health insurer to waive customer cost-sharing and co-payments for all treatments related to the Coronavirus strain COVID-19.
The nation’s second-largest health insurer, which operates Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in 14 states, will expand coverage effective Wednesday, April 1, for “members in its affiliated health plans undergoing treatment related to a COVID-19 diagnosis,” the company announced Wednesday night.
“During these challenging times, Anthem stands by our legacy and commitment to living our values and supporting those we serve,” Anthem president and chief executive Gail Boudreaux said. “By applying our approach for innovation, compassion and inclusion, we are focused on the issues needed most in this time of crisis, including affordability and access to care for those dealing with treatment related to COVID-19.”
The coverage moves unveiled by Anthem follow similar moves announced Sunday at the White House by Cigna CI and Humana HUM and also Tuesday by UnitedHealth Group UNH’s UnitedHealthcare health insurance unit. The actions by health insurers will likely bring lower cost medical care service to thousands of Americans given the rapid spread of the virus across the country.
The decisions by Cigna, Humana, UnitedHealth and now Anthem are the latest by health insurance companies that are expanding coverage and eliminating plan member cost-sharing for everything from in- person doctor office visits for Coronavirus tests to telehealth consultations for screening of the disease.
But these latest moves by the health insurance industry are likely more significant to customer finances and access to care because co-payments for hospitalizations and related cost-sharing for all treatment beyond a diagnostic screening or office visit are likely more expensive for the health plan. The expansion of coverage also comes as the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus soared past 200,000 Wednesday.
In Anthem’s case, the expansion of health benefits announced Wednesday night “covers the waiver of cost share for COVID-19 treatment received through May 31, 2020,” the company said.
“Anthem will reimburse health care providers at in-network rates or Medicare rates, as applicable, for Anthem’s affiliated health plan fully insured, individual, Medicaid and Medicare Advantage members,” the health insurer said. Like other health plans, Anthem said it is “strongly encouraging participation” by self-insured employers but these corporate clients have “option to opt out of participation.”
Last week, CVS Health said it will waive co-payments and related out-of-pocket cost-sharing of commercially insured Aetna AET members’ inpatient admissions related to the Coronavirus strain COVID-19.
Across the country, health insurance companies are expanding coverage and making efforts to reduce barriers to gaining access to care amid the Coronavirus outbreak. America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), which represents most U.S. health insurers including CVS, Anthem, Centene CNC , Cigna and many Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans, has a running tally of health plan efforts here.