Pritzker calls on insurers to cover coronavirus treatments—and Blue Cross complies

At a press conference announcing the sixth confirmed case of coronavirus in the state, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said his administration has been in contact with all of the state’s major insurers and encouraged them to “fully cover” Illinoisans affected by the outbreak.

In addition to tests being free, Pritzker says his administration seeks “to make sure that insurers are covering the care that is needed, not only by the people that are fully insured by their companies but also those that are underinsured. We’re also encouraging companies to follow Cigna’s lead that when these tests are widely available by private labs, that they would be fully covered by insurance companies in the state of Illinois. We’re working hard to make sure that there’s coverage for everybody. Of course there’s coverage for those who are part of Medicaid.”

The Chicago-based Blue Cross Blue Shield Association said in advance of Pritzker’s Friday evening press conference with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot that its network of 36 independent insurance companies will increase coverage for the coronavirus, in addition to increasing access to prescription drugs and telehealth.

For health plan members diagnosed with the coronavirus, Blues plans will waive prior authorizations—in which doctors obtain approval from insurers before providing medical care—for diagnostic tests and “covered services” it deems “medically necessary” and consistent with CDC guidance, according to the statement. The plans will also cover diagnostic tests it deems “medically necessary” and consistent with CDC guidance at no cost to patients.
Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Illinois is the dominant insurer in the state with 77 percent of the individual market, 71 percent of the large employer market, and 73 percent of the small employer market, according to 2018 data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Meanwhile, California, Washington and New York have all ordered insurers to waive out-of-pocket costs to patients for coronavirus testing.

Illinois had not issued a similar mandate as of Friday afternoon but, in a March 2 memo, the state’s insurance department acknowledged that patients with high deductibles could be reluctant to seek testing or treatment because of costs. It encouraged insurers to “consider all feasible and prudent options to reduce the barriers of cost-sharing for testing and treatment of COVID 19 during the outbreak.”

More than 250 people are currently being monitored for the virus, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike told reporters. The state has enough tests for “anybody that may be associated with this situation.”

“We are running voluntary surveillance testing at seven hospitals in Chicago and Cook County, two hospitals at other areas in Northern Illinois, one hospital in Southern Illinois and one in Central Illinois to monitor for the presence of the virus,” Pritzker said Friday. IDPH is confirming additional surveillance at hospitals statewide.

City, state, and Chicago Public Schools officials gathered for an unusual late Friday press conference to announce the latest case—a special assistant classroom aide (SECA) at Vaughn Occupational High School, a school for special needs and disabled students on the city’s Northwest Side. The SECA was a passenger aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship currently docked outside San Francisco. The school has more than 200 students. CPS officials are canceling classes at the school next week.

“The unknown, frankly, can be scary, and I believe it’s crucial to give our residents all the facts and best health practices so they can protect themselves. As a parent myself, I understand how unnerving this information might be,” Pritzker said. “I want to be clear, in this case, as in every case, the federal, state, county and hospital-level public health officials are working to actively identify any individuals who came in contact with this patient. As of today, we have launched the process of individually contacting and interviewing children and parents who may have been exposed.”

“We will ensure that they get any medical support that they need, including testing and medical care. I want to emphasize the strength of our public health system in Illinois,” the governor added.

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via Crain’s Chicago Business

March 6, 2020 at 08:07PM

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