Last week Tuesday President Trump administration issued new policy guidance informing health insurers that the law does not require them to provide cover for mandatory coronavirus tests that employers may require their workers to undergo as one of the conditions for returning to work.
The announcement made by the Departments of Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services shocked healthcare lawmakers and advocates who criticised the move saying it would give profit-oriented insurance companies a green light to forward the potentially costly Covid-19 screenings onto workers.
As it it, the Trump administration believes that insurance company gains are more important than the lives of the hardworking nursing home workers and residents.
“Once again, the Trump administration is prioritising corporate profits over people. I’m deeply concerned that this will disproportionately impact front-line workers.”
—Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.
Interestingly, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, a relief bill signed into law in March by President Donald includes a clear provision that mandates insurance companies and employer-provided plans to cover “Covid-19 testing and related services without cost-sharing.”
However the Trump administration highlights in its latest guidance that the law only requires insurance companies to provide cover for “medically appropriate” coronavirus screenings, not tests “conducted to screen for general workplace health and safety (such as employee ‘return to work’ programs).”
“Free Handout To The Insurance Industry.”
Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N-J.) has come in sharp criticism of Trump’s administration’s latest interpretation of the law terming it a violation of congressional intent and a “free handout to the insurance industry.”
As a matter of fact, insurance companies across the globe are rejecting or delaying payment of claims relating to losses as a result of business interruptions during this pandemic.
In Australia, Covid-19 has been considered by the insurance industry as a catastrophe owing to the thousands of claims filed by affected businesses and individuals.
Earlier this year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency mandated to enforce anti-discrimination laws noted that employers are legally permitted to compel employees to take coronavirus tests to determine whether it is safe for them to resume work.
Various states across the US including New Jersey and New York currently require employees of nursing homes to be tested as a measure to stem the spread of the viral disease within their facilities, which have been distressful hotspots for Covid-19.
In a report published by the New York Times earlier this month, various nursing homes lamented that they couldn’t afford paying for the viral tests for the disease and were trying to transfer the costs to insurance companies.
Unfortunately, not all insurers have agreed to cover for Coronavirus testing, something that has left thousands of workers staring at the possibility of footing the bill by themselves.
According to Shikilia Davis, a worker at a nursing home in Long Island, her employer sent her home after she refused to hand in her insurance card before taking the Covid-19 test.
Davis explained that she was afraid of having the coronavirus screening costs charged to her since her insurance company declined to cover the screenings.
“This is a bill I do not want to get stuck with,” said Davis. “I don’t have money lying around.”
Last month, Public Citizen—a consumer advocacy group documented in a report that “the vast majority of the largest health insurers” in the United States had temporarily waived some costs related to coronavirus screening and treatment.
“But these fee waivers contain significant restrictions and most are set to expire long before the pandemic can reasonably be expected to end,” the report noted.
“In some cases, the insurers’ statements of testing-related benefits appear less sweeping than Congress required,” the report continued. “Some of the insurers’ statements only promise to cover testing-related costs through certain dates. Other statements suggest a more restrictive universe of covered tests than the legislation calls for. Meanwhile, most of do not clearly warn members that they might be subject to costs if they see out-of-network providers.”
Public Citizen argues that the most effective way to ensure everyone gets tested and treated for Covid-19 is to set up a Medicare for All which, according to the group would be “the most sensible way to untangle the thicket of our healthcare system, protect Americans from crushing costs, and create a healthier and more productive society.”
“Under Medicare for All,” the group said, “nobody would have to worry about falling through the cracks of a broken healthcare system and facing financial ruin.”