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Some Covid Costs Still Waived In WA, Others Shared

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

This week Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler extended two emergency orders that protect consumers from some of the costs of diagnosing the coronavirus. At the same time, he says insurance companies are looking to share Covid-related costs in other ways.

Since early in the pandemic, Kreidler’s office has required health insurance companies to provide free testing for people whose doctors order it. He has extended other protections as well. For example, he prohibited companies from tacking on extra costs, such as lab fees, for diagnosing those tests.

Those executive orders are now valid through September 5.

But Kreidler can’t protect people from all of their Covid-related costs. He says insurers have begun to require customers to pay copays and deductibles on some of their Covid-related bills, especially those whose health issues linger.

“At what point is it Covid and at what point is it part of regular medical care that is covered by the insurance program, as opposed to something a little more emergent?” he asked.

One example: Premera Blue Cross. On its website, it says it began to charge copays, deductibles and co-insurance for Covid care, beginning July 1.

Kreidler says companies are worried about their liabilities for people who will need care well into the future.

“A lot of that is a huge unknown at this time as to just what that represents in the cost of health care. Insurance companies will be playing their usual role here of trying to make sure they don’t have to pay for things that should be the responsibility of the individual," he said.

Kreidler suggests you check with your provider to find out what Covid-related expenses you’ll be responsible for.