Democratic lawmakers are pressing three major insurers on their decisions to reinstate cost-sharing for COVID-19 treatments, arguing they are putting "profits before the wellbeing of the people of this country."
In letters addressed to the CEOs of Anthem, UnitedHealth and Aetna, Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) and nine other lawmakers urged the insurers to waive cost-sharing for COVID-19 treatment, arguing the companies have weathered the pandemic better than "many other" small and large companies.
"These actions threaten to undermine the health and wellbeing of millions of Americans, as COVID-19 continues to tear through communities around this country despite public health officials' best efforts to rapidly deploy the vaccine," the letter reads.
Many insurers, including Anthem, Aetna and UnitedHealth announced last year they would waive cost-sharing for COVID-19 treatments, but reinstated the requirements earlier this year. While insurers are required by law to cover COVID-19 testing and vaccinations without cost-sharing, that doesn't applyto treatments and insurers have been rolling back their waivers this year.
"For COVID-19 treatment, cost-sharing will be according to the member's benefit plan," UnitedHealth states on its website. "You will be responsible for any copay, coinsurance, deductible or out-of-network costs."
But the COVID-19 pandemic is not over, the lawmakers warned in the letter to the CEOs, and cost-sharing requirements can deter patients from seeking care.
"We ask that you continue to waive these costs through the duration of the public health emergency and until the pandemic is over," the lawmakers wrote.
The lawmakers noted that all three companies were profitable in 2020 as patients deferred care, and financial analysts expect profits to grow in 2021.
"Insurers took the necessary and appropriate steps to encourage patients to seek healthcare services if they were sick during the pandemic," the lawmakers wrote. "The goal of these cost waivers was always, and should always be, to encourage patients to get the healthcare they need; identifying the virus, treating its symptoms, and minimizing long-term harm to patients. Now is not the time to take our foot off the gas."
In a statement, an Aetna spokesman said the cost-sharing waivers for inpatient treatment of COVID-19 expired Feb. 28 for commercial, individual and group Medicare Advantage members.
"We'll continue to make investments to help our member get and stay healthy, while also enabling our customers to offer healthcare plans that are affordable," the spokesman said.