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New York's Governor Cuomo requires insurers to waive cost sharing for COVID-19 tests

Jonathan Shieber

In a move that other states might want to emulate, New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said that the state's Department of Financial Services is requiring health insurers in the state to waive cost sharing associated with testing for the new coronavirus, COVID-19.

The initiative paves the way for low-cost emergency room, urgent care, and hospital visits for patients worried that they may have contracted the virus.

The Governor also said that New Yorkers receiving Medicaid coverage will not be expected to pay a co-pay for any testing related to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. The steps are designed to ensure that residents of the state won't have to worry about cost as an obstacle for getting tested. Any tests that are being conducted at the State's Wadsworth Lab are fully covered.

Cuomo's administration also outlined other actions health insurers are either going to be required or advised to take, including informing New Yorkers of available benefits, offering tele-health medical advice and treatment, and preparing insurers to cover the costs of COVID-19 immunizations if a vaccine becomes available.

"We have the best health-care system in the world, and we are leveraging that system, including our state-of-the-art Wadsworth testing lab, to help contain any potential spread of the novel coronavirus in New York," Governor Cuomo said, in a statement. "Containing this virus depends on us having the facts about who has it, and these measures will break down any barriers that could prevent New Yorkers from getting tested."

The state's initiative will prevent insurers from forcing cost-sharing on in-network provider office visits or urgent care visits when the purpose is a test for the novel COVID-19 coronavirus. The initiative is also designed to ensure that New Yorkers receiving Medicaid coverage have their costs covered.

Employees who are in self-funded employer-based plans not regulated by ERISA statutes need to contact employers to see how the new regulations will effect them.

The State is also requiring insurers to devote resources to inform consumers of available benefits; provide and promote tele-health services; encourage and verify whether provider networks are adequately prepared to handle potential increases in demand for services including offering access to out-of-network services; covering the costs of immunizations if they become available; expand access to prescription drugs; and ensure proper emergency care.