COVID-19’s Impact on Health Coverage

There are several changes in the healthcare coverage industry that have been impacted by the Coronavirus which many people may be unaware of. When it comes to healthcare coverage in this country many individuals don’t concern themselves with whether or not something is covered on their plan until the need is upon them. For those who don’t have a chronic condition to worry about and aren’t taking any maintenance medications may be able to slide by on catastrophic coverage. But what happens when they do have labs or other tests they need to get done? Usually they would have to pay out of pocket due to their rather high deductibles. Luckily the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has taken steps to remove barriers and financial disincentives to COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment. CMS announced this by issuing Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to clarify coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) by catastrophic health plans at:

Here CMS states that the agency will not take enforcement action against any health issuer that amends its catastrophic plans to provide coverage without imposing cost-sharing requirements for COVID-19 related services before an enrollee meets the catastrophic plan’s deductible and encourages states to take a similar enforcement approach. This is in line with what the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released last week, which provides flexibility to high deductible health plans to provide health benefits for diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 without application of a deductible or cost-sharing.   

In addition, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in conjunction with CMS finalized two transformative rules allowing patients unprecedented access to their health data for a future where data flows freely and securely between payers, providers, and patients. The final rule establishes policies that break down barriers in the nation’s health system to reduce the burden on payers and providers while improving interoperability and enabling better patient access to their health information. The idea is to reducing burden and improve patient outcomes by ensuring the patients are more informed about their healthcare.

In order to track new cases and help increase testing CMS has also established a second Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) code that can be used to bill for certain COVID-19 diagnostic tests by laboratories. CMS is rolling out three fact sheets to provide critical information to their 130 million beneficiaries that will explain Medicare, Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program, and Individual and Small Group Market Private Insurance coverage. These fact sheets will go over diagnostic laboratory tests, immunizations and vaccines, telemedicine, drugs, and cost-sharing policies to assist their patients in understanding what will be covered when it comes to this virus. Switching to Medicare, it is important to know that Medicare covers brief virtual check-ins so that patients can connect to their doctors by phone or video chat.

Despite the recent Trump Administration’s changes to the Public Charge Rule to broaden the net ICE has in infiltrating and deporting US National and immigrant families, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that they would supposedly not be using health data surrounding testing, prevention, or treatment for the Coronavirus in a public charge test. This is meant to encourage these families to once again trust the very government that has perused them for the very dream that America was founded on and seek treatment and testing without the fear that they will be deported upon utilizing health services, as is the case for simply attaining other medical assistance currently.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has closed its lobbies to everyone except those with appointments during the COVID-19 outbreak. They will, however, continue to conduct telephone interviews and beneficiaries can use MI Bridges to apply, report changes, submit paperwork, or review their benefits. In addition, If a beneficiary cannot complete the ID proofing when creating a MI Bridges account they will be able to complete ID proofing at a later date and families who receive cash assistance under the Family Independence Program will not be required to attend orientations at Michigan Works! offices or to engage in subsequent employment activities.

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