Uninsured Californians are particularly at -risk for receiving large medical bills if they contract Coronavirus, reports The Fresno Bee. While costs will vary, analyses suggest that getting tested and treated for coronavirus can cost as much as $35,000 without insurance, painting a devastating picture for residents lacking health coverage. Even those who are insured could face high costs associated with coronavirus treatment – between $9,000 to $20,000, according to Kaiser Family Foundation. In response, California has issued directives to expand coverage and reduce cost-sharing for cases related to COVID-19.
Oregon state officials have requested a Medicaid waiver to delay all income verifications until after the state of emergency in response to COVID-19 is lifted, according to The Lund Report. Legislators are also considering options that would enact a grace period for non-payment of insurance premiums that lasts for the duration of the emergency declaration and put an “any willing provider” provision in place to eliminate out-of-network status for patients.
Alaska has enacted a telehealth bill that requires healthcare insurers offering fully-insured plans in the group and individual markets to cover telehealth services and stipulated that an insurer may not require an initial in-person visit before paying for covered services, reports State of Reform. The threat of COVID-19 prompted lawmakers to amend the legislation to make it effective immediately upon passage.
The federal government has approved Florida’s Medicaid waiver, giving the state authority to use out-of-state providers and hospitals to treat Medicaid patients and ensure that they qualify for reimbursement, according to Health News Florida. The providers and hospitals must either be Medicare providers or part of another state’s Medicaid network of providers to be eligible for reimbursement from Florida’s Medicaid program.
An arrangement between UK HealthCare and the Kentucky Department of Revenue has come under scrutiny amidst reports that patients with unpaid medical bills are falling prey to predatory debt collection practices, according to WFPL. The Department of Revenue uses a number of methods to collect payment for UK HealthCare patients’ outstanding medical bills that private bill collectors are unable to use without a court order. Strategies include seizing state tax refunds, confiscating lottery winnings and garnishing paychecks. Additionally, the Department of Revenue adds a 25 percent collection fee to the original balance that patients are required to pay, as well as interest ranging from 5-7 percent. State data show that interest payments alone have added $4 million to the commonwealth’s general fund since 2009.
At least three states are reopening their health insurance exchanges amid the coronavirus outbreak in an effort to boost coverage and expand treatment for the uninsured, reports Roll Call. Maryland, Massachusetts and Washington state all announced special enrollment periods for uninsured individuals this week as the outbreak worsens and governors declare emergencies. Twelve states and the District of Columbia operate their own health insurance exchanges, which give local leaders the authority to reopen enrollment on their own in the face of an emergency like the coronavirus.
VCU Health is halting seizure of patients’ wages and removing thousands of liens against patients’ homes, some dating to the 1990s, according to Kaiser Health News. The moves follow an investigation last year by Kaiser Health News that found VCU Health and Virginia’s other major teaching-hospital system, UVA Health, pursued tens of thousands of patients over the years for overdue bills, sending many into bankruptcy. Liens often reached thousands of dollars and Virginia allows creditors to garnish up to 25 percent of a patient’s earnings.
California is joining several states in scrutinizing alternative health plans, programs that provide limited coverage and are not required to offer many of the protections provided by Affordable Care Act (ACA)-compliant plans, according to the New York Times. State officials ordered a major Christian group to stop offering the arrangement, which pools members’ contributions to cover their medical expenses, because they are not required to meet standards for traditional insurance plans.
Michigan’s proposed budget contains $5 million in funding to create a five-employee office to transform how the state pays for healthcare through Medicaid, according to Modern Healthcare. The ultimate goal of the Medicaid transformation office in the Department of Health and Human Services is to come up with a variety of new or enhanced "value-based" reimbursement systems for health plans, hospitals, physicians, nursing homes and home and community-based providers. The office would evaluate best practices in other states, develop programs and offer recommendations.
Arizona’s Supreme Court unanimously ruled that hospitals accepting payment from the state’s Medicaid program cannot try to collect additional payment by going after money owed to the patient, reports the Arizona Capitol Times. Specifically, the justices voided sections of state law that have allowed hospitals to impose financial liens on people who owed money to the hospital when Medicaid payments were lower than billed charges. This included a situation where a patient was in an automobile accident and the hospital attempted to collect money from the driver of the other vehicle.