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Steps to Pay for Coronavirus Medical Expenses before Traveling Abroad

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This is an writeup with steps on How to Pay for Coronavirus Medical Expenses before Traveling Abroad. Coronavirus care can be expensive, but there are ways to reduce your costs if you know the rules. Travellers and other insurers are required to cover the full cost of coronavirus tests and the provider visit to administer the test.

There’s been a case study by the Kaiser Family Foundation where they found that the cost of inpatient hospital admissions for COVID-19 could get to about $20,000. The cost can even be much more if ventilator support is required to keep the patient. After reviewing the pneumonia experience, as a guide, the analysis found that people with employer health insurance who are admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 treatment could face average out-of-pocket costs of more than $1,300. People with high-deductible health insurance policies may have to pay $2,000 or more themselves.

Ways to Reduce your Costs for COVID-19 Testing and Care

But new laws are expanding coverage for COVID-19 tests, and some insurers are voluntarily waiving cost-sharing for some COVID-19 treatment expenses. There are ways to reduce your costs for COVID-19 testing and care, but you need to know the rules. The following steps can help:

  • Know the coverage rules for testing.
  • Find out if your insurer is waiving other out-of-pocket costs.
  • Take advantage of telehealth.
  • Fight surprise medical bills.
  • Avoid gaps in insurance coverage if you lose your job.
  • Sign up for Medicare if you’re 65 or older and lose your job.
  • Use tax-free money for out-of-pocket expenses.

Know the Coverage Rules for Testing

According to Federal law in the US, it now requires insurance companies to cover the full cost of coronavirus tests. Additionally, the provider has to visit and administer the test, whether it’s at a matter of urgency in the care center, emergency room or office visit. As a customer, you don not have to pay any money or contribute to co-payments if you go to a doctor for screening that results in a coronavirus testing.

However, this does not necessarily mean you won’t get a bill at all. Mrs. Karen Pollitz, who’s a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said she has seen some people who were charged for the test. Surprisingly, most of these people even have insurance. “By law, there’s no requirement that the provider can’t charge you for services, but the insurance company has to pay for it as part of your cover,” she says. “If at any case a hospital charge you for the test, then you can simply request a receipt, then submit it to your insurance company and they have to reimburse you, fully.”

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Find Out if Your Insurance Company is Waiving Other Out-of-Pocket Costs

First of all, there’s no federal requirement for insurance companies to cover out-of-pocket costs. But for the cases related to coronavirus testing, some are voluntarily waiving certain other charges, etc.

In the light of this, Ms. Sara Collins, vice president for health care coverage and access at The Commonwealth Fund has this to say; “The only thing that is clear is because of the federal law requirement says there’s no cost-sharing for testing. But the landscape is much more variable for treatment”. “Going forward, your current co-pays and charges/deductibles will apply to any treatment you get from the hospital. On the other hand, some insurance companies are equally offering to cover treatment without cost-sharing. Therefore, it has become extremely confusing for most people to fully come to understand what cost-sharing they would be responsible for, in the long run.”

Commonly, details on this issue vary by the insurance company. Take a simple example, Cigna is waiving cost-sharing as well as co-payments for COVID-19 treatment through May 31, of this year. While some Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans are waiving co-pays, deductibles and coinsurance for COVID-19 medical treatment through June 30. Better still, ask your insurer about its rules, and keep up with any changes that comes. Bear in mind that the Association of Health Insurance Plans has a frequently updated list of insurers’ special coverage for COVID-19 testing costs.

Better Take Advantage of Telehealth Today

Most Insurance companies (and Medicare) have been expanding coverage for telehealth. This has been available for both to prescreen people for coronavirus tests, and to meet up with doctors for other health issues. Customers can have this service without having to leave their homes. You should know that Telehealth is to be covered with no cost-sharing if a coronavirus test ends up being ordered. But, some insurance firms are waiving cost-sharing for other telehealth visits, at least for now.

By using telehealth, it costs a lot less than in-person visits for minor health issues, even if you have a co-payment or have to pay the full cost before you reach your deductible. According to UnitedHealthcare, a total of $85 can be spent for low-severity treatment at a doctor’s office, $130 for an urgent care facility visit and $740 for an emergency room visit, but the national median cost for a video-based virtual visit is just $50.

Fight Back Surprise Medical Bills

Recently, there was a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation where it was postulated that nearly 1 in 5 patients who go to an in-network hospital face at least on surprise medical bill. Especially patients who go for pneumonia with major complications. Oh yes!, this could also be a problem for corona virus treatment. Take for instance, Pollitz says that you may be billed for a chest X-ray from a radiologist who works at an in-network hospital but isn’t in your insurer’s network. Your insurance company may decide to pay a small amount for the out-of-network care. There after, the provider bills you for the extra charges, a practice called “balance billing”.

Over the years, laws to protect patients from surprise medical bills has been passed in some states. They include laws prohibiting providers from sending these extra bills or offering an arbitration process. Nevertheless, some providers still send a balance bill to you even if you are not supposed to pay it. Because of this, Pollitz has this to say; “if you get a bill that you think insurance should have paid, call the insurance company”. “Still, you have appeal rights.” But you’ve to find out about your state’s protections laws. In thelight of this, you can find links to your state insurance department through the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ map. Look it up if you can.

Avoid Gaps in Insurance Coverage if You Lose Your Job

Nobody expect bad things to come their way but they still do. Anything unforeseen can happen and you can lose your job. When this happens, you usually lose your employer’s health insurance, too, right? But trust me, there are still several ways to stay covered for your health insurance. Ideally, if work in a place where your employer has 20 or more employees, you can continue your employer’s coverage for up to 18 months. Yes, you can enjoy this after you lose your job

It is called a COBRA under the federal law (most states have similar laws for smaller employers, too). You’ll definitely be able to continue enjoying the same health coverage as well as a provider network. But your premium charges will increase a bit, that is; you’ll be the one paying both the employer’s and the employee’s share of premiums (most employers pay about 75% of the premiums for their current employees).

On the other hand, you can choose get individual coverage through Healthcare.gov. You can also approach your state’s insurance marketplace. Basically, you have a 60-day window known as special enrollment period after losing your employer coverage to sign up for an individual policy. (Many a times, states are also creating a temporary open enrollment period for individuals who didn’t have coverage.) It can be a better choice if you have a different provider network completely, but trust me, you’ll have to begin the deductible period all over again. This is reality. Simply check your history because you may just run into luck and qualify for a subsidy to help pay off the premiums. The luck however depend on your current income as well as the number of people in your immediate family.

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For a better understanding, this illustration can be of help; single people can qualify for a subsidy if their income for the year is less than $49,960, or less than $67,640 for couples. Does that mean anything to you? Also, for a family of 4 people, salary is expected to be up to $103,000. We all know that it can be tedious to correctly estimate your income per annum. In the light of that, you could get a subsidy now but may have to payback some of it when you file your tax return if your income increases by the last month of the year (December). You can freely go to Healthcare.gov for calculators to help you estimate your subsidy. You can also get links to your state’s marketplace there.

Again, if a your husband or a wife has employer coverage, you may have the leverage to be included as a dependent after you lose your employer’s health coverage.

Another option:

You may qualify for Medicaid, if your income is high and your state supports it, says Pollitz. That is to say, your eligibility is based on your monthly income. Therefore, you could qualify even if your income was much higher at the start of the year. You can definitely find more information at your state marketplace or state Medicaid office. You can visit Medicaid.gov.  for more guide. “Chances are there’s an option out there you can afford, but it may not be something you’re used to,” says Pollitz. She also recommends working with local health care navigators for help assessing your coverage options for the best. “The services will help give you accurate direction and let you know about your coverage options and how to register/sign up,” she says. Go to the “find local help” button at Healthcare.gov to find assisters in your area. Thank me later.

Sign Up for Medicare if You’re 65 or Older and Lose Your Job

Advisers say that you can enroll in Medicare starting the three months before to three months after the month you turn 65 of age. Note that the Social Security field offices may not be open always because of the pandemic, but you can enroll online at the Social Security website even if you don’t plan to sign up for Social Security at the moment.

It is important to know that if you signed up for Medicare Part A when you turned 65 but hadn’t signed up for Part B because you were working, you have up to 8 months after you leave your job and lose that coverage to add Medicare Part B without a late-enrollment penalty. In the meantime, you may not be able to register online because you’ll need to submit forms proving that you had employer coverage. But you can still send them a mail in the forms (keep copies showing the application date).

Advise on what to do

On the whole, Tatiana Fassieux, education and training specialist for California Health Advocates and a counselor with the state health insurance assistance program, or SHIP says it may take a while for your evidence of coverage to arrive, especially with current delays. Few weeks ago, recently gave an assistance to a woman who was already covered by Part A and had submitted the forms to enroll in Part B but hadn’t received the evidence of coverage yet and needed a coronavirus test. Fassieux has this to say; “I said if you need medical care, go and get it, don’t worry about the costs, and we know based on all of the evidence that we’ve been getting that there would be no cost-sharing,”. You can get help with Medicare from your local SHIP – see shiptacenter.org for links.

Use Tax-Free Money for Out-of-Pocket Expenses

If you do have to pay out-of-pocket costs for coronavirus expenses (or for any other eligible medical expenses) you can use tax-free money from a flexible spending account or a health savings account. If your employer offers an FSA, you usually need to use the money you contribute by the end of the year (or some let you roll over $500 to the next year or give you until March 15 to use the money). With an HSA, you can use the money tax-free for out-of-pocket costs and other eligible medical expenses anytime – even years in the future.

And if you had an HSA-eligible health insurance policy in 2019, with a deductible of at least $1,350 for single coverage or $2,700 for family coverage, you still have until July 15, 2020, to make tax-deductible contributions to your account. Lastly, you can contribute up to $3,500 to the HSA if you had single coverage or up to $7,000 for family coverage, plus $1,000 if you were 55 or older in 2019 – giving you an extra tax break now, and tax-free money to use for medical expenses anytime.

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