Neal Raises Concerns Regarding Junk Insurance Plans’ Deficient Coverage Furthering Coronavirus Spread

Mar 6, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) called on Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma to answer questions regarding steps the Trump Administration can take to ensure individuals enrolled in insurance plans that do not comply with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) can access coronavirus (COVID-19) testing and treatment. Many of these non-compliant, or “junk,” insurance plans may not cover coronavirus care. Individuals enrolled in these deficient plans who are experiencing symptoms may forgo testing due to fears they will not be able to afford the associated costs, thus increasing the risk of undiagnosed cases and further spread of the virus. 
“For individuals who have coverage under the non-ACA compliant plans, such as short-term limited duration insurance plans and health sharing ministries, non-government lab tests for COVID-19 and the services related to administering the COVID-19 diagnostic tests are not required to be covered and can cost patients thousands of dollars,” wrote Neal in his letter to CMS. “High out-of-pocket costs, uncovered services, and large deductibles prevent consumers from seeking care. Unfortunately, the chance of having a test not covered or used against an individual seeking coverage for future treatment will likely interfere with preventing public health crises. Furthermore, the resultant treatment for coronavirus and related health problems may be excluded from coverage.”
The Chairman asked Administrator Verma to answer the following questions within the next 72 hours: 

  • Has the COVID-19 taskforce of which you are a member discussed the issue of limited coverage for COVID-19 treatment and the implications of such limits on the spread of the virus? 
  • Has the Administration issued, or does it plan to issue, guidance non-ACA compliant plans regarding coverage of testing and treatment of COVID-19?
  • Has the Administration issued, or does it plan to issue, guidance non-ACA compliant plans regarding coverage of the vaccine to ensure that vaccinations are available nationwide without cost barriers?
  • Will the Administration ensure that access to testing is widespread and guided by local clinical experts and practitioners?  If yes, how?  

Full text of the letter is available HERE