Hackers want your medical ID, Social Security number, and other sensitive personal information so they can bill your insurance for fake treatments and procedures. Don’t let them get it.
Not all health plans are the same — be sure you know what you’re signing up for
With COVID-19 on the minds of all Utahns, many people are looking at their coverage options. Consumer protection laws govern many types of health coverage, like plans purchased through an employer or through the Health Insurance Marketplace, but other types of plans aren’t required to protect consumers in the same way. Consumers who use health care sharing ministries (HCSMs), discount plans, or medical retainer agreements can best protect themselves by understanding the coverage they participate in.
“Some consumers may find value in these sorts of health care products, but they need to understand that they are not insurance and do not guarantee coverage,” said Todd E. Kiser, Utah Insurance Commissioner. “Consumers who choose these products should make sure they know how they work and what risks they present. Be especially wary of any company advertising membership discounts during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Health Care Sharing Ministries
You may hear about HCSMs when talking to neighbors or searching online. HCSMs are organizations in which the members share the costs of health care and usually have common ethical or religious beliefs. However, before you sign up for an HCSM, there are some things you should know:
- HCSMs are not insurance and don’t guarantee payment of claims. While they may share funds with members who have health needs, they are not legally required to do so.
- HCSMs do not have to comply with the consumer protections of the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) or state law, like covering treatments for wellness visits and pre-existing conditions, or capping your out-of-pocket costs and imposing lifetime limits.
- HCSMs may provide value to some people, but they pose a risk to others because they provide limited benefits.
- The Utah Insurance Department does not regulate or supervise HCSMs.
A member typically contributes a monthly “share” to cover the qualifying medical expenses of other members. The HCSM then administers payments to members, whether by pooling the contributions or by matching a paying member directly with someone who needs help paying for care. Some people look to HCSMs because of their lower up-front costs compared to ACA plans.
You might receive advertisements from plans offering discounts on health care services for a monthly fee. These are not health insurance plans, and participants do not have the same protections as they do under health insurance plans. Be sure to thoroughly investigate any plan promising deep discounts for a “low” monthly fee and weigh the benefits against the cost carefully.
Medical Retainer Agreements and Concierge Medicine
Medical retainer agreements and some concierge medicine agreements are agreements between a health care provider and an individual patient to provide routine health care services. These agreements are not insurance and do not have the same protections as health insurance. They provide a limited scope of health care services. The Utah Insurance Department does not regulate or supervise these agreements.
The Bottom Line
HCSMs, discount plans, and medical retainer agreements are not health insurance plans, are not as comprehensive as health insurance, and offer limited benefits. Before signing up, be sure to understand how the program works and what benefits you or your family can count on.
For more information about HCSMs, discount plans, and medical retainer agreements, contact the Utah Insurance Department’s Health & Life Division at 801-538-3077 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Health Care’s Limited Coverage Areas
Insurers should strive to offer Utahns stability and support
Insurance Commissioner Todd E. Kiser is urging all Utah health insurers to expand coverage for COVID-19 including telehealth services.
“In these unprecedented times, I have asked Utah’s health insurers to expand their operations to offer Utahns increased stability and support,” said Kiser. “COVID-19 is a significant concern to many people and offering them some peace of mind will be welcomed by the community.”
In a bulletin sent to health insurers on March 17, Commissioner Kiser requested the following coverage enhancements:
- Member Support — Health insurers should devote resources to providing members accurate information about their benefits, responding to inquiries, and informing members about telehealth options.
- Testing for COVID-19 — Lab tests, including tests for COVID-19, are an essential health benefit and must be covered under individual and small group comprehensive health policies. The Insurance Department encourages insurers to waive cost-sharing, co-pays, deductibles, and coinsurance for insureds seeking a medically necessary COVID-19 screening. Insurers are also asked to waive cost-sharing for visits to in-network providers, urgent care centers, emergency rooms, and calls to telehealth outlets.
- Telehealth Services — Insurers should review their telehealth provider networks to be sure they can meet increased demand as the COVID-19 event continues.
- Network Adequacy and Access to Services — Health insurers should verify that their provider networks can handle an increase in need for health care services and COVID-19 tests. This may include offering access to out-of-network services where appropriate and required. If a health insurer’s network does not have health care providers with appropriate training and experience to meet the particular needs of insureds at this time, insurers are asked to make exceptions to provide access to out-of-network providers at the in-network cost-sharing.
Commissioner Kiser also requested that insurers waive preauthorization requirements for COVID-19 testing and treatment, offer lenient prescription drug refill practices, and accept the highest in-network reimbursement rate for out-of-network patients to avoid surprise medical bills.
“Some people may have significant worries about the effects that COVID-19 is having on their communities and the world,” said Commissioner Kiser. “Anyone who feels a need to process such feelings should contact their health insurer to see what mental health options are available. In many cases, online mental health visits may be appropriate.”
For the most up-to-the-minute updates about COVID-19 in Utah, visit coronavirus.utah.gov.
It’s important to know that the immediate risk from the coronavirus is low, but the CDC believes that the public health threat will be significant. Utahns can help the community stay healthy by washing their hands and avoiding people who appear sick — just like they would during any other flu season. If you or someone you know is diagnosed with COVID-19, your insurance company will be able to help.
Below are the actions Utah’s health insurers are taking to assist people affected by the coronavirus.
Cigna is waiving all co-pays and cost-shares for COVID-19 testing, treatment, and telehealth screenings through May 31, 2020. It is also providing free home delivery of up to 90-day supplies of maintenance medications and have set up a 24-hour toll-free help line for consumers who are feeling high stress and anxiety.
CVS/Aetna is waiving all cost-sharing for COVID-19 diagnosis, testing, and treatment for members. It is also waiving copays for telemedicine visits for any reason for 90 days, waiving charges for prescription home delivery, and allowing 90-day prescriptions of maintenance medicines.
Golden Rule Insurance Company
Humana is waiving out-of-pocket costs associated with COVID-19 testing for patients who meet CDC guidelines at approved laboratory locations. It is also waiving telemedicine costs for urgent care for the next 90 days and is allowing early refills on prescriptions.
Molina Healthcare is waiving COVID-19 testing costs for members. It is monitoring the coronavirus on a daily basis and working to ensure that it is prepared to assist its members.
- Molina Healthcare Waives COVID-19 Testing Costs for Members
- Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Fact Sheet
- UID survey responses
National Foundation Life Insurance Co.
National Health Insurance Co.
PEHP is covering COVID-19 testing without preauthorization under the member’s normal benefits. It is also allowing members to acquire 90-day supplies of maintenance medications from retail and mail order pharmacies, and early refills for Diabetes Savings Program members.
Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah
Regence is covering the cost of a COVID-19 test with no cost to fully insured members if a provider determines the test is necessary. Members who are diagnosed with COVID-19 will be provided personalized support. Medication policies have been loosened (except for opioids) so members can have needed medications on hand.
- Regence health plans extend no-cost COVID-19 treatment for members through December 2020
- Coronavirus: How We’re Responding to COVID-19
- UID survey responses
SelectHealth is covering in-network COVID-19 testing with no copays, coinsurance, or deductibles. It is also educating members about the proper way to triage their concerns related to COVID-19, including telehealth visits through Connect Care.
- SelectHealth Update: COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
- UID survey responses
- UID survey responses (short-term limited duration plans)
UHC is waiving copays, coinsurance and deductibles for COVID-19 testing at approved locations and for visits associated with COVID-19 testing, including visits to a doctor’s office, urgent care, or emergency room. It is also allowing early prescription refills, expanding access to telehealth options, and offering a 24-hour emotional support help line that is free for anyone to call, not just members.
- Important Information for Members from UnitedHealthcare on COVID-19
- UnitedHealth Group to Provide Over $1.5 Billion in Assistance and Premium Support to Customers
- UID survey responses
University of Utah Health Plans
WMI Mutual Insurance Co.
- Utah Coronavirus Infoline:
- America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP):
- FAQs from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS):
- FAQs on Individual & Small Group Insurance Coverage and COVID-19
- FAQs on Essential Health Benefit Coverage and COVID-19
- FAQs on Catastrophic Plan Coverage and COVID-19
- FAQs on Telehealth Services and COVID-19
- FAQs on Payment & Grace Period Flexibility and COVID-19
- FAQs on Prescriptions in Individual & Small Group Insurance and COVID-19
- High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP):
Coronavirus rendering courtesy of CDC/ Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAMS
Recent high-levels of meltwater and flooding have made an impact on communities across Utah. Here are some useful resources regarding flood insurance:
- National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) — http://nfipiservice.com/
- FloodSmart — https://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) — https://www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program