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Cuomo orders New York insurance companies to waive coronavirus co-pays

‘We can’t let cost be a barrier to access to COVID-19 testing’

March 3, 2020 Mary Frost
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed coronavirus legislation in the Red Room at the State Capitol in Albany on Tuesday. Photo: Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo
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Residents of New York who require testing and treatment for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) won’t be slammed with insurance co-pays for testing or treatment, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday night.

“I am announcing a new directive requiring NY health insurers to waive cost sharing associated with testing for coronavirus, including emergency room, urgent care and office visits. We can’t let cost be a barrier to access to COVID-19 testing for any New Yorker,” the governor tweeted.

New Yorkers receiving Medicaid coverage will also receive free coronavirus testing, Cuomo said.

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The governor and New York Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker made the decision after reports that patients in other states, such as Floridian Osmel Martinez Azcue, were slammed with thousands of dollars in co-pays after testing for coronavirus. Azcue, who fell ill in Miami after returning from China, received a bill from his insurance company for $3,270. Fear of huge medical debts could prevent people from coming in for testing, furthering the virus’s spread.

Cuomo said on Tuesday he was also going to amend the paid sick leave bill to add a specific provision protecting the jobs of employees struck by coronavirus and under quarantine.

“Their employer should pay them for the period and their job should be protected. And I am going to make that amendment to the paid sick leave bill that I sent up,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Cuomo made the announcement the day the second New York patient tested positive for coronavirus — a Westchester man with children who works in Manhattan. The patient, who is in his 50s, remains hospitalized and is in serious condition with respiratory issues.

Cuomo signed a $40 million emergency management authorization for state coronavirus response into law on Tuesday. It also carries with it authorization to carry out emergency measures, such as quarantines. The bill was introduced by Assistant Speaker Felix Ortiz (D-Sunset Park, Red Hook).

“There can’t be a situation where we have to do something, we have to quarantine people, and we have to say, wait a second we do not know if we have the legal authority,” he said Tuesday after the bill was passed.


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