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10 total cases of COVID-19 in PA; insurance will cover testing

Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed three additional presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 – two residents are from Montgomery County and one is from Monroe County.

“While we anticipate that there will be more Pennsylvanians with COVID-19 in the coming days and weeks, it is important for residents to know the commonwealth is prepared and to be prepared themselves,” Dr. Levine said. “Right now, you have a higher chance of testing positive for COVID-19 if you have traveled to a country or state with known community outbreaks or have come in contact with someone who has the virus. We are working with the health care community across Pennsylvania to keep them informed, consult on patient testing and ensuring they have the resources they need to care for patients.”

The Wolf Administration Preparedness Actions

The World Health Organization first announced the coronavirus outbreak in late January and the Pennsylvania Department of Health has had its Emergency Operations Center set up since February 1. The center allows for a collaborative, concentrated state response, including:

• Activated of the Department of Health’s Emergency Operations Center to allow for
enhanced response coordination;

• Begun testing for COVID-19 at the state laboratory;

• Maintained communication and outreach with federal, state and local partners;

• Provided symptom monitoring for residents returning from areas impacted by coronavirus;

• Provided health care providers, businesses and education providers with information;

• Reviewed and adapted current pandemic flu plans to prepare for spread of COVID-19;

• Increased testing capacity;

• Partially activated the Commonwealth Response Coordination Center at PEMA.

• Governor Tom Wolf signed an emergency disaster declaration March 6 to ensure state agencies involved in the response have the expedited resources they need to continue to focus on the virus and its possible spread.

• The Department of Health is providing a daily update via statewide press release.

• On March 9, Sec. of Health Dr. Rachel Levine began to provide daily press briefings.

 

About COVID-19

Symptoms of the COVID-19 can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. Reported illnesses have ranged from people with little to no symptoms to people being severely ill and dying. Individuals most at risk for severe symptoms include elderly and those with pre-existing conditions.

Pennsylvanians are reminded to:

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcoholbased hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

• Cover any coughs or sneezes with your elbow, not your hands.

• Clean surfaces frequently, such as countertops, light switches, cell phones and other frequently touched areas.

• Contain if you are sick, you should stay home until you are feeling better.

To date, there are more than 111,000 cases worldwide, including nearly 3,900 deaths. There are 600 cases and 22 deaths to date in the United States. The department expects cases to continue to be confirmed in the upcoming days and weeks but wants everyone to take action to help prevent the spread of the virus. The department also said due to the rapidly changing nature of the spread of COVID-19 around the world, it is important for families to be prepared.

Comments from State Health Secretary

“Further spread of this virus throughout the nation will likely occur. We encourage people to prepare for potential life disruptions. The same family emergency plans and kits that we use to prepare for flu or norovirus, and even snowstorms and floods, are important now.

“Since the start of flu season, we have encouraged Pennsylvanians to stop the spread of illnesses by washing your hands, covering coughs and sneezes, cleaning surfaces and staying home if you are sick. Those are the same healthy habits you should continue to practice to protect your family and yourself against the spread of this virus.

“Individuals who intend on traveling outside of the United States are urged to check the CDC’s and the federal Department of State’s travel guidance. Currently there are outbreaks of COVID19 occurring within numerous countries across the world. The number of countries seeing new cases has increased significantly over the last week.

“As this situation evolves, we will continually update Pennsylvanians through our website, health.pa.gov, our Facebook page and our Twitter account,” Dr. Levine said. “It’s important to remember that the most accurate and timely information regarding this outbreak is available through the Department of Health.”

Updated Coronavirus Links: Press Releases, State Lab Photos, Graphics

For all press releases regarding coronavirus, please visit here.

Find the latest information on the coronavirus here.

Photos of the state’s lab in Exton are available for download and use here.

Coronavirus and preparedness graphics are available here near the bottom of the page: On.pa.gov/coronavirus

 

Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf announced today that all major health insurers providing comprehensive medical coverage in the commonwealth will cover medically appropriate COVID-19 diagnostic testing and associated treatment for consumers and have committed to waive any cost-sharing for the testing.

“First and foremost, the commonwealth is prepared for and focused on mitigating COVID-19 in our state,” Gov. Wolf said. “Pennsylvania insurers proactively waiving costs associated with COVID-19 testing for consumers helps the commonwealth identify additional cases and gives us a better opportunity to increase our resources appropriately and better protect all Pennsylvanians. No Pennsylvanian should forego testing for any reason, if deemed medically necessary, including fear of what it might cost.”

 

The Department of Insurance encourages patients to be aware of steps their insurance company is taking to increase access to necessary care related to COVID-19.

Pennsylvania’s major health insurers, all of whom have committed to take this critical step, are Highmark, UPMC Health Plan, Geisinger, Independence BlueCross, Capital Blue Cross, Aetna, Cigna, UnitedHealthcare, Pennsylvania Health & Wellness, and Oscar.

This increased access to testing is especially critical as multiple commercial medical labs are in the process of implementing testing capabilities and some have begun to perform tests. This means labs will begin billing insurance for the COVID-19 test as they would for any other diagnostic test. Up until now, testing has only been performed by the CDC or state labs, who have covered the cost of testing with public funds.

“I’m pleased that Pennsylvania’s health insurance companies are stepping up to help fight the spread of COVID-19, commonly known as coronavirus,” Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman said. “Covering the costs associated with administering testing will ensure that consumer out-of-pocket costs do not serve as a barrier to the diagnoses and care of Pennsylvanians.”

The department recognizes the critical role health insurers have in the public’s ability to access health care services, which could ultimately help decrease the spread of the virus. Consumers with excepted benefit policies, short-term, limited duration health insurance coverage, and/or health care sharing ministries need to understand these plans can have significant limitations on coverage and may not provide the same level of access. If any consumer has a question about their insurance policy, the department encourages them to contact their insurer or the department with any questions.

COVID-19 is currently not widespread in Pennsylvania. Because COVID-19 is most commonly spread through respiratory droplets, Pennsylvanians should take the same steps that health care providers recommend to prevent the spread of the flu and other viruses, including washing your hands, avoiding touching your face and covering coughs and sneezes.

Public health officials are urging people who have symptoms to stay home and contact their doctors by phone, rather than showing up at a medical facility asking to be tested.

The Insurance Department, in partnership with the departments of Health and Human Services, also developed an FAQ that provides information and answers to common questions related to insurance coverage and COVID-19.

For up-to-date information on COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, visit the PA Department of Health’s dedicated Coronavirus webpage that is updated daily.

The Pennsylvania Insurance Department has a consumer services team available to answer questions about insurance coverage and benefits at (877) 881-6388. PID may also provide assistance if a consumer receives an unexpected bill related to COVID-19, or other health care services.