Congress is on a State / district work period this week. The Health Affairs blog discusses the health coverage provisions in the CARES ACT. In addition to broadening coverage of COVID-19 testing [Section 3201] and any future FDA-approved vaccine [Section 3203] , the new law permits high deductible health plans with health savings account to pay for telehealth care before the deductible [Section 3701] and repeals the Affordable Care Act provision requiring a doctor’s prescription for over the counter medicines as a prerequisite to reimbursement from a health savings account or a healthcare flexible spending account [Section 3702].
The high deductible health plan telehealth provision took effect last Friday and the over the counter drug coverage change was made retroactively effective January 1, 2020.
Health Affairs blog adds that
Under [Section 3202 of] the CARES Act, all comprehensive private health insurance plans would reimburse a test provider based on the rate negotiated between the plan and the provider (i.e., the in-network rate) that was put in place prior to this emergency. If there is no negotiated rate between the plan and provider (i.e., the provider is out-of-network), the plan would fully reimburse the provider based on the provider’s own “cash price” (or a lower price if the plan can negotiate one). This “cash price” must be publicly available (listed on a public website) while there is a declared public health emergency. Providers that fail to make their price public could face a civil monetary penalty of up to $300/day. This provision essentially allows out-of-network labs to set their own price and expect full reimbursement from the plan, potentially leading to dramatic price increases for testing.
Fierce Healthcare reports that that healthcare actuarial consulting firm TowersWillisWatson has released a projection of healthcare spending associated with the COVID-19 emergency.
On the low end of the spectrum, should the outbreak infect just 10% of the population and prove to have low morbidity, costs will increase by under 1%. However, if the virus infected 50% of the population with high morbidity, costs could increase by 6.8%, the study found. The scenario with the highest cost increases is if the virus 30% of people with high morbidity—a combination that could lead to 7.2% in cost increases, Willis Towers Watson found.
A major federal agency and two other health plan accrediting bodies have centralized their COVID-19 emergency guidance:
Apple in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control has posted a COVID-19 screening tool for consumers.