N.H. orders health insurance to cover Covid-19 testing as 5th N.H. resident confirmed positive for virus

Published: 3/10/2020 3:49:17 PM

Health insurers in New Hampshire must cover the costs of testing for Covid-19, the state Insurance Department said Tuesday, even as a fifth case of the disease caused by the new coronavirus was identified in the state.

“The reason that we acted so fast is we wanted to ensure that people who were eligible for a test or had a reason to get tested didn’t put off going to a doctor because (they think), ‘it’s the weekend, maybe I have a large co-pay for going to an emergency room, am I going to potentially spread this because I couldn’t justify the cost,’ ” said Alex Feldvebel, deputy commissioner of the New Hampshire Insurance Department, regarding the order for insurance.

Fifth case

Officials said Tuesday that a fifth New Hampshire resident has tested positive for the Covid-19 coronavirus after coming into close contact with a confirmed case in Massachusetts. The Department of Health and Human Services said the adult man from Rockingham County is self-isolated at home.

Three of the five New Hampshire cases are related: Officials have said a Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center employee who recently traveled to Italy infected a second Grafton County man, who in turn infected a third at a church service. The fourth New Hampshire case is a Rockingham County man who also recently traveled to Italy.

None of them has been hospitalized. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 58,000 have so far recovered.

Health insurance

The health insurance order covers only plans regulated by the New Hampshire Insurance Department and not plans obtained through employers. It will affect about half of the people in New Hampshire who have health insurance, Feldvebel said. The state Department of Health and Human Services said it will ensure that residents covered by Medicaid will have their testing costs covered, and that Medicare Part B covers testing.

Feldvebel said that many national health insurance companies like Cigna and Anthem have decided to waive cost sharing for their members voluntarily.

Feldvebel said the tests would likely primarily be those offered by Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp, the two national companies that have developed testing services. Testing may not occur in doctors’ offices but at special testing sites. Insurance could conceivably cover other tests made available by the CDC. New Hampshire has about 200 testing kits on hand, according to state epidemiologist Benjamin Chan.

The order from the Insurance Department says that testing must be covered for all members who meet the CDC criteria for testing.

“It’s a decision between your medical provider and a health provider about whether or not you need it,” Feldvebel said.

The order says coverage must include office visits, urgent care and emergency services to test for the viral disease. It notes that under state law, insurance providers cannot deny payment for consultations via telemedicine, and says that insurers should “minimize the extent to which prior authorization requirements might act as a barrier” to getting treatment. Prescriptions must also be covered.

The order can be seen at governor.nh.gov/news-media/press-2020/documents/health-care-coronovirus-order.pdf.

Education impact

All schools in the Hollis-Brookline district were closed Tuesday because an employee was being tested for the virus. Newmarket schools were closed Monday after school officials learned that a staff member had been on the same bus as a person with Covid-19.

Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut said his office has recommended that school officials closely scrutinize the purpose and destination of any planned travel and consider postponing any out-of-state travel.

A number of colleges around the country, including Harvard, have announced that they will not hold classes for part or all of the rest of the academic year. As of Tuesday evening, no New Hampshire colleges had made a similar move, but the situation was fluid.

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