Health Insurers Agree to Waive Copays for Coronavirus Testing, Pence Says

March 10, 2020 Updated: March 11, 2020

Several major U.S. health insurance companies have agreed to waive copayments on COVID-19 testing and will extend coverage on treatment, according to Vice President Mike Pence.

Pence made the comments during a White House meeting with the chief executives of several insurance firms on Tuesday, and called on people to get tested, saying they shouldn’t worry about the potential cost of medical treatment.

“I’m pleased to report that as you requested, Mr. President, that all the insurance companies here, either today, or before today, have agreed to waive all copays on coronavirus testing, and extend coverage for coronavirus treatment in all of their benefit plans,” Pence said, while sitting next to President Donald Trump and the CEOs.

Medicare and Medicaid, Pence added, have made it clear to their beneficiaries that COVID-19 care would be covered.

Amid the outbreak, health experts and lawmakers have expressed concerns that U.S. patients’ ability to afford doctors’ visits and testing might be an obstacle in preventing the coronavirus spread. Others have said that some patients, namely those who don’t have insurance, won’t be able to afford a vaccine for the virus if one gets developed.

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Medical staff, wearing protective gear, take samples from people at a building where 46 people were confirmed to have the novel coronavirus, at a temporary test facility in Seoul on March 10, 2020. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

The heads of major health insurers, including UnitedHealth Group, Anthem, Cigna, Humana, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Aetna were at the meeting, the White House said. Pence said insurers have agreed to cover telemedicine to allow people to talk to a doctor remotely about the virus, adding that they agreed to “no surprise billing.”

“We want people to get tested,” the vice president said, adding that more than 1 million test kits have been sent to various labs across the country.

Trump and Pence announced during a March 9 news conference that the White House is considering a number of economic stimulus options, including a payroll tax cut and small business relief. Trump said he would meet with National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin along with Senate Republicans on March 10 to discuss a possible bill proposal.

It came after U.S. stock indexes suffered the biggest one-day selloff since 2008 on March 9.

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New York Mayor Bill de Blasio visits Union Square to distribute information about the coronavirus in New York City on March 9, 2020. (Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)

Several lawmakers have self-quarantined at home after they were exposed to coronavirus cases, including Reps. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Incoming acting Chief of Staff Mark Meadows also made a similar announcement he would self-quarantine.

The members of Congress were told that they may have come into contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case at the Conservative Political Action Conference in late February.

According to a map provided by Johns Hopkins University, more than 800 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the United States. The majority of the deaths have occurred in Washington state.

At least 36 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have reported infections. COVID-19 symptoms include a cough, fever, respiratory problems, and can lead to pneumonia.

The virus is believed to have emerged in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, prompting what some have described as harsh controls by the ruling Chinese Communist Party in the region. Significant outbreaks have been reported in Iran, Italy, and South Korea.