(Thursday, April 2, 2020) JOE’S CORNER: New CoronaVirus update

UnitedHealthcare Latest To Waive Patient Out-Of-Pocket Costs For Coronavirus Treatment Bruce JapsenSenior Contributor Healthcare I write about healthcare business and policy UNITEDHEALTH EARNS The UnitedHealthcare website, the health benefits [+] © 2018 BLOOMBERG FINANCE LP The nation’s largest health insurance company is the latest to waive customer cost-sharing and co-payments for all treatments related to the Coronavirus strain COVID-19.

UnitedHealth Group’s UnitedHealthcare health insurance unit said on its web site Tuesday morning it is “waiving member cost-sharing for the treatment of COVID-19” through May 31 for its fully-insured commercial, Medicare Advantage and Medicaid plans.” The company said it will also work with its self-funded accounts, which would include large self-insured employers.

In addition, UnitedHealthcare said it will also “waive cost-sharing for in-network, non-COVID-19 telehealth visits” for its fully-insured commercial, Medicare Advantage and Medicaid members effective Tuesday until June 18.

“This builds on the company’s previously announced efforts to waive cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing and testing-related visits and the expansion of other member services,” UnitedHealthcare said.

The coverage moves unveiled Tuesday morning on UnitedHealthcare’s web site follow similar moves announced Sunday at the White House by Cigna and Humana and 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 and UnitedHealthcare this week 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 hurtled past 160,000 on Tuesday morning.

Last week, CVS Health said it will waive co-payments and related out-of-pocket cost-sharing of commercially insured Aetna 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, Cigna and many Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans, has a running tally of health plan efforts here.