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Will insurance cover COVID-19 hospital bills?

Virus Outbreak Hospital
Posted at 5:00 AM, Sep 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-01 17:45:12-04

The last thing you want to think about when you are sick is medical bills, especially if you've had to visit an emergency room.

In recent weeks there has been confusion surrounding what you owe when it comes to COVID-19. For example, should you have to pay for tests or vaccines? The answer is no.

If you get sick and have to be hospitalized, should your insurance cover the bill? The answer depends as insurance policies continue to change.

"Private insurers had been waiving these costs voluntarily, for the most part, earlier in the pandemic," said Cynthia Cox, Vice President of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

She says the stimulus packages passed by Congress last year required insurers to waive testing fees when "medically appropriate" and not pass vaccine costs onto people getting them. But Cox says medical bills were not a part of those packages, and to possibly avoid a federal mandate, companies made a decision to waive hospitalization costs on their own.

"One, it might have felt like the right thing to do at the beginning of the pandemic," said Cox, "Two, insurers were very profitable last year because a lot of people were forgoing other kinds of health care that they otherwise would have gotten."

But as expenses for insurance companies continue to go up...

"Now, what insurers are saying is...we're not going to waive your deductible, we're not going to waive...your copay," said Cox.

According to a recent survey by Kaiser Family Foundation, 7 in 10 of the largest health insurers in each state have already made the change and others should in the next few months meaning, "if you were released from the hospital very recently, it's entirely possible that you could still have a bill coming in the mail."

Cox says you should be able to call your insurance provider or find their COVID coverage policy on their website. She says if you do have to take a trip to the ER, make sure the hospital is in-network or it could cost you even more.