Testing and vaccination for the coronavirus is free thanks to laws passed last year. Treatment isn’t, however, and may be about to get more expensive.
A new vaccine is in production, millions of doses are being administered daily and President Joe Biden says there will be enough vaccines for all U.S. adults by the end of May. That’s great news. But there’s still a risk of getting COVID-19 and facing medical bills.
Here’s a primer to COVID-19 costs you could face, what insurers will pay for and how to deal with medical bills.
COVID-19 tests and vaccinations are free for everyone, under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the CARES Act.
■Private insurers cannot bill for vaccinations and generally aren’t supposed to bill for a COVID-19 test. The same holds true if you’re on Medicare or Medicaid. (There are some exceptions for testing, but vaccination is completely free.)
■If you don’t have insurance, the law provides funds to cover testing and vaccination costs for providers so they shouldn’t bill you.
Still, reports abound of people getting incorrectly billed for COVID-19 tests and related services. If you were billed for a free service, contact your provider to point out the mistake. You may have to follow up with your insurer.
If you are in a position to buy insurance or want a cheaper premium, this is a good time to shop. The American Rescue Plan makes health care more affordable through reduced premiums for exchange plans and fully paid premiums for laid-off workers to adopt COBRA coverage .
During the pandemic, many private insurers have voluntarily waived cost-sharing for COVID-19-related treatments, including copays, payments toward deductible and coinsurance (what you pay after the deductible). But that could change soon.
The national public health emergency period — an official government declaration — ends April 21, though it may be extended by 90 days given we’re not out of the woods yet. Insurers could resume normal cost-sharing when the emergency period ends.
Even if your insurer has a treatment waiver now, you may face some costs depending on your plan, the care received and how your insurer defines COVID-19-related treatment.
“Most of these waivers still only apply to COVID-19 treatment received from in-network providers or facilities, and consumers who are treated out-of-network may be forced to pay the entire cost of their treatment,” according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report published in November.
People may have lingering symptoms or conditions needing treatment, says Adam Fox , deputy director at the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, a nonprofit health advocacy organization.
“It’s not easy to distinguish what may be COVID-related or not after somebody initially recovers,” he says. “In most cases, insurance companies are not going to categorize follow-up care as COVID-related.”
To see what costs your…