Navigating Testing in a COVID Environment

By Chris Noffke, GBDS – VP of Employee Benefits

Navigating insurance benefits is complex and confusing for consumers and business owners alike. Today’s insurance landscape requires people seeking benefits to understand insurance terms like deductibles, coinsurance, out of pocket limits, annual out of pocket limits (yes this can be different caps) and many others.

On top of that, you now have to understand the ins and outs of preventative care coverages and COVID related no-cost, shared-cost coverages.

Currently most insurers are covering the COVID tests, antibody testing, and treatment with no cost share. But be aware, these 100% covered costs will eventually become the patient’s responsibility. Some testing may continue to be covered at no cost to the patient but you may be billed if you go outside of your network or don’t have an approved reason for testing.

We can begin to understand why by looking at the cost of one of these tests. A local PPO (preferred provider organization) reported that they have seen the cost of COVID Antibody testing (Codes 86328 and 86769) range from $23 – $1,023.92, which is one of the major issues with understanding your cost shares.

So, while this test may be covered based on current legislation, when will it no longer be covered? As of right now, there is a lot of speculation that once the “state of emergency” ends, you may see no cost end too.

Currently, to get an antibody test done, it needs to be ordered by a healthcare professional in an office visit, urgent care room or emergency room. Although there are some guidelines for how out of network visits will be covered, patients are sure to see costs shifted to them.

What does the future hold?

When I think about our healthcare future and how COVID-19 will impact the cost of care, it causes a significant sense of concern. With so many people avoiding seeing a physician during social distancing, we should anticipate a surge of chronic illnesses with higher than average claims costs. Staying home means those with anxiety, depression and obesity may be spending even more of their time on couches and this means less physical activities and socialization.

A recent report by Milliman – the highly respected risk management consulting firm – states, “We expect an increase in costs after the Pandemic due to deferred care and pent-up demand… The estimate of services deferred to 2021 is beyond the scope of this paper, but those costs are likely to be very significant.” The report says that ‘very significant’ is an understatement, as it speculates there will be at least $75 billion and as much as $575 billion in deferred care.

And that’s for non-COVID care! Another analysis, commissioned by America’s Health Insurance Plans, estimates that total costs of COVID-19 for commercially insured individuals could range from $44.6 billion to $438 billion over the next two years.

Arriving at a clear conclusion is impossible given the volatility of our times. But, what we can do is work together to protect each other while aggressively looking for ways we can collaborate to protect our healthcare future.

For a comprehensive look at COVID-19 related insurance coverage, check out this Health Affairs article by Katie Keith and take a look at Wismed Assure’s Covid-19 Updates page for added tools and resources.

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