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Montana insurers waiving some customer costs for coronavirus testing

Posted at 6:32 PM, Mar 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-10 21:55:41-04

Montana’s insurance commissioner has announced four major health insurance companies in the state are waiving some their customers’ costs to get tested for the new coronavirus.

State Auditor Matt Rosendale’s office said Tuesday that the Montana Health Co-Op, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana, PacificSource and Allegiance are all taking steps to reduce out-of-pocket costs for the testing.

“The last thing we want is someone who suspects they might have coronavirus to avoid getting tested because of a financial barrier,” said Montana Health Co-Op CEO Richard Miltenberger. “So we’re removing those barriers.”

Insurers said they have been discussing ways to respond to the concerns over coronavirus for several weeks. Each company is taking its own steps on coronavirus testing, but they are all waiving things like co-pays and deductibles for their fully insured customers.

Company leaders say they’re not encouraging all of their customers to get tested. However, if a doctor determines someone should be tested, insurers say they don’t want financial concerns to get in the way.

“Our hope is that, by eliminating the financial barriers, they will feel comfortable then as they have discussions with their medical provider, that they won’t be adversely impacted financially by any tests that are deemed to be medically necessary,” said Cody Langbehn, PacificSource’s vice president and Montana regional director.

In a statement, Rosendale thanked the four companies for taking voluntary action before any known cases of the coronavirus reach Montana.

“Montanans are coming together to respond to the coronavirus outbreak and help keep the Last Best Place healthy and safe,” he said. “I’m happy to see the four major health insurers in Montana are all taking these actions voluntarily without a government mandate. In Montana, we roll up our sleeves and help our neighbors when the going gets tough.”

There are still some limits on the announced waivers. BCBS and PacificSource also oversee “self-funded” health plans, which are run by employers. Leaders said they are discussing with those employers how to handle coronavirus testing. Langbehn said PacificSource is also seeking guidance from the federal government on whether they can waive testing costs for customers who have Health Savings Accounts through their company.

So far, 21 people in Montana have been tested for coronavirus in Montana, and all of those tests have come back negative. You can find updated information on statewide testing at the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services website .

Insurers encouraged everyone they serve to continue following recommendations like washing your hands regularly and avoiding touching your face. They said people should follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for the latest information.