Coronavirus Tests Are Now Free, but Treatment Could Still Cost You

No one knows whether employers, insurers or the federal government will move to completely cover these costs, although Joseph R. Biden Jr., the leading Democratic contender for president, has suggested providing emergency funds to cover treatment.

Some plans are taking steps to limit their members’ exposure to high medical bills. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Federal Employee Program, which covers nearly six million federal employees, retirees and their families, said it would waive any co-pays or deductibles regarding medically necessary treatment.

And some hospital systems are putting a pause on collections. CommonSpirit Health, a Catholic chain of hospitals and clinics, says it is suspending patient billing for coronavirus testing and treatment as it sorts out how the various parties will handle patients’ out-of-pocket costs.

What about surprise medical bills?

You may be at risk if you get care from someone, like an emergency room doctor or anesthesiologist, who is out of network, even if the hospital is in your plan’s network. When Kaiser did its analysis, it found that nearly one in five patients admitted to the hospital with a serious case of pneumonia faced out-of-network bills.

Should I worry about my health insurer being able to pay for the costs?

Probably not. Even if they don’t like them, “insurers are used to surprises,” said Gregory Fann, an actuary in Temecula, Calif. “That’s what they are there for.”

Most insurers have plenty of capital, and state regulators also keep an eye on them to make sure the companies can pay their medical claims.

And your premiums won’t go up during the current year — insurers set their prices for a whole year so you don’t have to worry about any immediate jumps in costs. It’s impossible to predict what may happen to prices for the following year, although insurers could seek higher rates — and consumers might face higher premiums — depending on the costs of caring for the seriously ill and the length of the epidemic.

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