posted by Matt Eyles, AHIP President & CEO
on August 7, 2020
Every American deserves affordable, comprehensive coverage that provides them with access to safe and convenient care and peace of mind. From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and as the nation is still confronting its devastating effects, health insurance providers have been and continue to be fully committed to helping solve this crisis. We are taking decisive action through concrete, measurable steps to aid Americans and reduce their burdens during this time of need – and beyond.
Recently, that commitment was questioned in a story in The New York Times that asked whether health insurance providers are benefitting from the pandemic and in a recent inquiry announced by the House Energy & Commerce Committee. But let us be clear: No one should hesitate to get tested or treated for COVID-19 because of concerns about costs. And our individual and collective actions match our words.
Since COVID-19 began impacting the patients and communities our member companies serve, health insurance providers eliminated patient cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing and treatment – prior to any government requirements. We’ve expanded access to care by enhancing telehealth services and waiving cost sharing. And with the uncertainty and anxiety created by the virus across people of all ages and all walks of life, health insurance providers have launched new mental health services and supports for millions of Americans.
The commitment doesn’t stop there. Our members know the unprecedented challenges faced by employers and members as result of the most rapid and severe economic slowdown ever experienced in our country – by helping as many people as possible stay covered affordably through offering grace periods and premium discounts. And, of course, we also recognize the mammoth strains and stresses upon our frontline health care heroes – physicians, nurses, other health care providers and workers and hospitals – and have taken steps to support through financial and other assistance those who need it with relief funds, direct donations and advancing billions of dollars in assistance.
Every day, our members are laser-focused on helping people through the COVID-19 crisis. We want to prevent people from getting sick and help people with COVID-19 get well. But with over 4.8 million confirmed cases in the United States, it’s important to remember that this virus – and its after effects – are not going to simply disappear.
The number of COVID-19 cases is unfortunately continuing to grow day by day. Those affected patients must have the same level of access to care and treatment. Hopefully one day soon, health insurance providers will cover an approved, CDC-recommended vaccine once one is available.
And with growing evidence that some COVID-19 survivors face months, or possibly years, of debilitating complications, health care experts are beginning to study possible long-term costs. While much is still to be learned, initial numbers are staggering as the estimated treatment costs for COVID-19 range from $30 to $547 billion over a 2-year time period.
Keeping people healthy means ensuring they get the care and prescription medications they need for all of their health conditions, including preventive care to avoid or detect conditions early. For several weeks, as regions of the country began to reopen, health insurance providers have worked with doctors, hospitals, and community organizations to ensure that care environments are safe, and to encourage people to see their doctors for their health screenings, treatments, and procedures they may have postponed because of the virus.
That includes vaccinations for other illnesses, such as the flu and childhood illnesses. Recent reports show a notable decline in childhood vaccinations, putting at risk the health of our most precious resource.
Hospitals have reported that many patients have delayed important medical care during the coronavirus. If care continues to be delayed, it could end up becoming more complex – and more costly.
We’ll be there to cover and ensure they have care they need too – and already, we are starting to see reports that hospitals are treating patients at levels closer to normal, pre-COVID capacity.
The second half of the year could see a lot more care, and higher costs, than the first half of 2020. However, if these costs never materialize and remain below certain levels, American consumers, businesses, and taxpayers are protected by provisions in federal and state laws that require health insurance providers to deliver premium rebates and put money back into their pockets.
Addressing social barriers to better health has been our long-standing commitment—and health insurance providers have emphatically leaned in with their community partners to support our neighbors.
We know health care is more than providing care in hospitals and doctor’s offices. It’s the care packages containing non-perishable food and items like hand sanitize and face masks that were sent to low-income New Yorkers. It’s the crisis meal delivery program, which provided two weeks of meals to seniors and people with disabilities who cannot otherwise access food. And it’s the employees and medical professionals in our industry who joined our frontline healthcare heroes to put their own health and safety on the line as they leave their regular jobs and redeploy as contact tracers or to work in hospitals and other facilities in geographies that were profoundly affected by the virus. Health care is people taking care of people.
Americans are struggling today – hit hard by both a pandemic and a recession – and need help. That means whenever possible, they should be able to end the year with the same health care coverage they started the year with.
That’s why we are working with Congress, the Administration, and state leaders to enact legislative solutions that are timely, temporary and targeted. This will help protect Americans with the coverage they depend on to give them the access to care they deserve.
America’s health insurance providers are committed to investing in the better health of all Americans. We are committed to helping as many Americans as possible stay covered, and for that coverage to be as affordable for them as possible. Most of all, we are committed to solutions and actions that will help solve the COVID-19 crisis and reduce its burden, and we pledge not to stop until it’s over.