Aetna to cover cost of coronavirus hospital treatment for many members

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NEW YORK — Many Aetna policyholders will not have to pay for coronavirus treatment if they are hospitalized, the insurer announced Wednesday.

The cost of treatment, which could run hundreds or thousands of dollars, has emerged as a major concern, as Americans fill hospitals nationwide after falling ill with coronavirus. Many insurers, including Aetna, have agreed to waive the cost of testing for many members to encourage people to get checked out if they feel sick.

But Aetna, part of CVS Health and among the nation’s largest insurers, is one of the first to cover the cost of treatment for certain members as well, which is a significant step.

Aetna said it will waive cost-sharing and co-pays for inpatient hospital admissions at in-network facilities related to coronavirus for those with employer-based coverage. Larger companies with self-insured plans who pay for the workers’ claims can opt-out. The offer, which could apply to as many as 17.7 million of Aetna’s roughly 23 million members, is effective through June 1.

Aetna previously agreed to pick up the tab for telemedicine visits.

President Donald Trump had incorrectly said during an Oval Office address two weeks ago that insurers had agreed to waive all co-payments for treatment. The White House later clarified that the President meant insurers would waive the cost of the coronavirus test and would extend coverage to treatment, though cost-sharing would generally still apply.

The cost of treating Americans suffering from coronavirus varies widely based on the severity of their illness and where they seek care. There is no specific treatment, so doctors mainly address the symptoms, including shortness of breath and high fevers.

Total treatment charges could range from nearly $9,800 for coronavirus patients admitted to the hospital without complications or chronic illnesses to more than $20,000 for those with these conditions, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation analysis, which looked at the typical cost of hospital admissions for pneumonia for those with employer health plans.

Admitted patients with job-based coverage could be on the hook for more than $1,300, on average, according to Kaiser.

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