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Excellus waives costs for COVID-19 treatment

Apr 4, 2020

The Rochester area’s largest health insurance provider said this week that it will cover COVID-19 treatment at no cost to its subscribers.

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield said in a statement that it will waive members’ costs for both diagnosis and treatment, “even if that treatment is delivered in the hospital.”

Credit Excellus BlueCross BlueShield

A federal aid package to address the coronavirus already mandated free testing last month, and President Donald Trump said this week that hospitals will be paid for treating COVID-19 patients who don’t have insurance, but full coverage of treatment for people who have health insurance through private companies has so far not been required.

Excellus vice president Todd Muscatello said the decision to cover those costs could be an expensive one, but “it’s the right thing to do.”

“There’s always a lot of question about the reserves that a health insurance company keeps, and every year that does get a little attention, because that can seem a large number,” Muscatello said.

Excellus held $1.4 billion in reserve at the end of 2019.

“The reason a health insurance company has reserves is to help with situations like this,” Muscatello said.

A spokesperson for MVP, another Rochester-area health insurance company, said in an email that the company was waiving costs for testing and diagnosis of COVID-19. MVP’s statement and press releases do not mention treatment of the disease.

MVP did begin offering free telemedicine services last month, including what the company called “virtual emergency room services” that can triage patients and prescribe treatments.

MVP said those services will “flatten the curve” by reducing the chance for transmission of the coronavirus in health care clinics.