Boulder Daily Camera: Colorado congresswoman moves to make coronavirus testing free nationwide
U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, a Denver Democrat, introduced congressional legislation Tuesday that would require health insurers to cover the full cost of coronavirus tests. The bill would add coronavirus testing to the Affordable Care Act’s list of preventive health services that insurers are required to cover at no cost to patients. That list currently includes many vaccines and screenings, such as flu shots and mammograms.
“We are on the cusp of a worldwide pandemic,” DeGette said in a statement. “In order to effectively curb the spread of this virus here in the U.S., we must increase testing immediately. No patient should hesitate getting a test done if a doctor thinks it’s necessary because of the cost.”
The bill would apply to private health insurance plans issued through employers as well as health plans on the Affordable Care Act exchange.
President Donald Trump’s administration has taken steps to list the coronavirus test as an essential health benefit under the ACA. That is different than listing it as a preventive health service, as DeGette’s bill would do. Essential benefits must be covered by insurers but patients can be billed for the procedures, whereas preventive services must be covered at no cost to patients.
The DeGette bill does not have a Republican co-sponsor but would need Republican support to pass the Senate. It is co-sponsored by Rep. Donna Shalala, a Florida Democrat and former health and human services secretary.
DeGette and Shalala said Tuesday they will work to include their bill in any coronavirus-related legislation Congress considers in the coming weeks.
On Monday, Gov. Jared Polis announced health insurance plans regulated by the state must offer coronavirus tests at no cost to patients, but that does not include all health insurance plans offered through employers. Medicare announced last week it will cover the cost of coronavirus testing.
“We’re letting our patients know that they can get a coronavirus test and that there is no cost-sharing associated with that for our seniors on the Medicare program,” said Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, at a White House press conference Monday.