An increase in health insurance premiums could happen by 2021 if the industry faces unexpected costs due to the coronavirus outbreak. As of this writing, over 500 people in the US tested positive for the virus whereas the death toll has risen to 22.
For now, an increased number of people are trying to get tested; to help lower the associated costs, three of the largest US health insurance companies announced that they would waive cost-sharing and copays for the COVID-19 test.
According to a health analyst for Fitch Ratings, Bradley Ellis, insurers classified COVID-19 as a new virus that’s unpredictable — hence why the increase in premiums depends on how severe the virus would impact the insurer’s medical loss ratio.
In the past few weeks, the number of people infected with the virus did nothing but go up; person-to-person transmission seems to be the main cause of the virus’s spread. Just in the state of Washington, about 136 people have been infected, leading to some 16 deaths.
Three US health insurers — Cigna Corp., CVS Health Corp., and Anthem Inc. — had already committed to waiving copays and cost-sharing for COVID-19 tests, to varying degrees. Cigna announced last week that they would cover COVID-19 tests as a preventative benefit for those with fully-insured plans. CVS Health, on the other hand, will offer telemedicine visits with no copays for 90 days; out-of-pocket costs and cost-sharing would be waived for Aetna health plan members as well. Anthem was the latest insurer that had agreed to waive deductibles, copays, and coinsurance for people who were getting tested for coronavirus.
In an effort to contain the virus and test as many suspected carriers as possible, the states of California, New York, and Washington also ordered insurance providers to waive patient fees related to coronavirus testing. Telemedicine or telehealth plans were also being prioritized by industry leaders in order to provide necessary healthcare services even at a distance.