As Colorado’s COVID-related hospitalizations climb, insurers’ forbearance on costs decline | News


As COVID-19-related hospitalizations in Colorado continue to climb toward record levels, a system that has helped patients avoid the brunt of medical costs is fading.

Many private health insurers have stopped alleviating the patients’ portion of expenses for COVID-related care, as was the practice after the novel coronavirus first made its devastating impact known.

“Last year, carriers waived out-of-pocket cost shares for consumers for COVID-19 testing and treatment,” said Amanda Massey, executive director of Colorado Association of Health Plans, which represents eight major insurance companies that cover 2.5 million residents.

What that means: “While policies were different among insurance companies, most patients were not receiving bills for COVID-19 testing, ER visits after positive tests or admissions to the hospital for COVID-19-related care,” said Dan Weaver, vice president of communications for UCHealth, which operates three hospitals in Colorado Springs.

A study the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted last year found that 88% of people enrolled in fully-insured private health plans would have had out-of-pocket costs waived if they were hospitalized with COVID-19. 

That’s not the case today.

Over the past 10 months, Weaver said, many insurance companies have changed their policies and halted the benevolent practice.

“So now, COVID-19-related care is being covered by most insurance companies in the same way as other health care, and patients’ out-of-pocket bills will depend on the details of their insurance plan, including their deductible, co-pay, co-insurance and out-of-pocket limits,” Weaver said.

Uninsured patients generally have been covered by the federal government’s Health Resources and Services Administration, under a program that is still available, he added.

One concern now as insurers’ forbearance…