HOUSTON - People who catch COVID-19 this year may face much higher medical bills than if they had caught the disease last year. That's because many insurance companies have stopped picking up as much of the tab.
Many insurance companies voluntarily waived deductibles and co-payments for treating COVID-19 when the pandemic began, including for hospital stays, ER visits, and medical treatments. If you landed in the hospital with COVID last year, for example, you may not have had to pay a deductible for it.
Now many insurance companies are dropping those cost-sharing waivers. So if you get sick with COVID now, you could feel really sick when you see your bill.
Federal law still requires insurance companies to pay for COVID tests and vaccines so that they are free to you. But many insurance companies are dropping their voluntary cost-sharing waivers for treatment.
"These are not small charges. If you are covered by insurance, the good news is at a certain point, you'll hit your deductible. But for a lot of people that deductible can be $1,000, $5,000, $8,000," said Sabrina Corlette, co-director of the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University.
For example, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports Anthem stopped their waivers at the end of January, UnitedHealth stopped them at the end of March, and Aetna stopped deductible free inpatient COVID treatment at the end of February.
"I think people are going to be taken off guard with some of the bills they're getting if they do have to be hospitalized for COVID," said Corlette.
To find out whether your insurance company is waiving cost-sharing or not, you can simply call them and ask.
America’s Health Insurance Plans also has a list of which companies still offer COVID-19 waivers here.