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Blue Cross, Harvard Pilgrim, Tufts waive patients’ out-of-pocket payments for COVID-19

Deductibles dropped to shield patients from potentially high expenses

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Three major health insurers based in the state, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and Tufts Health Plan, have begun waiving all patient-related payments for treatment of the coronavirus, joining several national health insurers that have announced similar breaks for policyholders.

The moves expand upon a directive from the state Division of Insurance earlier in March that insurers waive copays for any treatment related to COVID-19.

The insurance companies will now also waive deductibles and co-insurance fees for any medically necessary treatment related to COVID-19. Depending on a patient’s coverage plan and severity of illness, those costs could run into the thousands of dollars.

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The insurers say their policies will cover the many ways in which patients get treatment or care. At Blue Cross, for example, the waiver applies to any “supportive” care, such as counseling, while Harvard Pilgrim noted that its waiver includes in-network facilities and out-of-network emergency care. Telemedicine, or remote consultations, also will be covered by these waivers.

Blue Cross said the waiver will last through the duration of the declared public health emergency in Massachusetts. Tufts said its waiver will apply to treatment from March 6 to June 1, after which it will assess whether to extend it. Harvard Pilgrim said its policy will extend through June 1 and will be retroactive for policyholders who have already received treatment for the fast-spreading illness.

“During this unprecedented health crisis, we are expanding coverage to help remove any potential barriers for our members seeking treatment related to COVID-19,” Michael Carson, Harvard Pilgrim’s chief executive, said in a statement. “This action, in addition to previously announced removal of barriers to COVID-19 testing and general telemedicine visits, will ease the burden on our members and allow them to focus on what really matters, getting healthy.”

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Aetna, Cigna, and Humana have also announced they would waive some or all cost-sharing fees for COVID-19 treatment.

Andy Rosen of the Globe staff contributed to this report.




Andrew Caffrey can be reached at andrew.caffrey@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @andrewcaffrey.