AUSTIN — Eleven health insurers covering 4 million people in Texas have agreed to waive consumer costs associated with coronavirus, including testing and telemedicine visits, prompted by a request from Gov. Greg Abbott.
"We must ensure no Texan is denied access to testing resources relating to coronavirus," Abbott said in a statement on Tuesday.
The Texas Department of Insurance is asking insurers to waive co-payments, co-insurance and deductibles for testing, cover necessary medical equipment and services, waive claim denials for out-of-network services and requirements for pre-authorization and referrals.
8炫彩彩票开户The agency also asked insurance providers to authorize payment to pharmacies for up to a 90-day supply of any prescription medicine, regardless of when the prescription was last filled.
Health insurers and health organizations that have agreed to waive the costs include Aetna, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas and Cigna Health of Texas.
Insurers waiving coronavirus cost-sharing
8炫彩彩票开户The following health insurers and health maintenance organizations have agreed to waive cost-sharing for medically-necessary testing of COVID-19, according to the governor’s office.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas
Cigna Health of Texas, Inc.
Community Health Choice, Inc.
8炫彩彩票开户en Rule Insurance (UHC)
8炫彩彩票开户Humana Health Plan of Texas, Inc.
Molina Healthcare Insurance Company of Texas
Oscar Insurance Company
Scott & White Health Plan
8炫彩彩票开户Superior Health Plan (Centene)
United Healthcare Insurance Company
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“Supporting our members in sickness and in health is paramount, which is why we have joined stakeholders in the health care system do our part in contributing to this necessary and collective global effort to help contain and abate COVID-19,” said Dr. Dan McCoy, president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas.
Insurers are looking for ways to prepare for the spread of the disease, said Jamie Dudensing, CEO of the Texas Association of Health Plans. In addition to waiving co-pays and other costs, that includes encouraging patients to use telemedicine, which allows them to conference with a physician electronically instead of visiting a doctor’s office and potentially spreading the virus on the way.
8炫彩彩票开户Texas’ Medicaid program will also cover tests for the new coronavirus, COVID-19, said Stephanie Muth, the state’s program director. Medicaid covers 3.8 million Texans, including children in low-income families, pregnant women and certain adults.
8炫彩彩票开户As Abbott announced his plan for cutting costs to make testing and treatment more accessible, the commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, John Hellerstedt, told lawmakers that Texans are the state’s best weapon for slowing the spread of the coronavirus if they can expand their sanitation practices, stay home when sick and encourage the people around them to do the same.
In a somber hearing at the state’s capitol, Hellerstedt said he has been assured the state will have enough test kits to identify people with COVID-19. But he could not provide a hard number of kits that will be made available. Hellerstedt said he did not know offhand how many Texans have been tested for the virus so far.
COVID-19 is easily transmittable, so one person can infect three to five others and the bubble of infected people expands, Hellerstedt said, though 80 percent or more of cases will likely be mild, especially among children and healthy young people.
8炫彩彩票开户Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-Brownsville, urged Hellerstedt to declare a state of disaster to further help Texas prepare and prevent the spread of the virus, saying he sees no downside.
8炫彩彩票开户While Hellerstedt said the virus is spreading quickly, he said it is unnecessary for Texas to declare a state of disaster at this point.
8炫彩彩票开户“I would really want to preface everything by pointing out the truth: This is a very rapidly moving situation,” he said. “The things that we expect to happen are happening but they’re happening very, very quickly. When I say right now I don’t see that need, I can’t say tomorrow won’t be a different circumstance.”
8炫彩彩票开户A disaster declaration would not trigger federal funds, Hellerstedt said. However, it would allow the governor to waive certain regulations to react to an outbreak. For example, Abbott waived rules regarding contracting and procurement following Hurricane Harvey to speed up emergency response operations.
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While the disease is limited now in Texas, officials expect COVID-19 will eventually spread because it is novel, meaning it is a new disease for which no one has built up immunity. There is no vaccine for it, thus treatment includes supportive measures to help infected people survive the flu-like symptoms.
Local health officials say it’s important to ensure health care systems are armed with enough supplies to diagnose and support patients who have the virus.
“It’s not if, or when. It’s now,” said Umair A. Shah, executive director of Harris County Public Health.
8炫彩彩票开户 of medical supplies — such as N95 masks for health care providers — are limited, health officials said. While they said they have enough now, they worry about access if the virus spreads. Other officials worried whether hospitals will have capacity to handle an influx of patients with severe symptoms.
8炫彩彩票开户The state intends to leave it up to local school officials to decide when it is appropriate to temporarily close a school. In that case, a 14-day closure could affect hospital systems if it means health care personnel have to stay home with their children.
8炫彩彩票开户For that same reason, officials said, it’s important to protect medical staff from contracting the disease.
8炫彩彩票开户“If our health care system goes down, we are going to be in an uphill battle because those are the people on the front line helping our communities,” Shah said.
Dozens of companies in the biotech industry are working to develop a vaccine, as are academic institutions. Galveston National Laboratory has three candidates for a possible vaccine, said James Le Duc, a professor at the laboratory.
“We would be very, very fortunate to have it in a year, probably closer to 18 months,” he said.