LA GRANDE — Union County is up to three confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, and the Oregon Health Authority reported neighboring Wallowa County now has its first case, while nearby Umatilla County has five.
The state health agency also reported 25 negative tests and one positive test for Union County. The test cost $35.91-$51.31, depending on whether the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regulate the test, according to Medicare Administration Contractor test pricing. Health insurance experts explained individuals have options for covering the costs.
Medicaid and Medicare are two options.
Medicaid is available to adults and children who meet income, residency and additional requirements, with year round enrollment options. Medicare is for is a program for those 65 and older or younger people with particular disabilities, can be supplemented with Medicaid to cover some costs. Private insurance companies in the state of Oregon are also covering testing costs, according to Holly Sorensen, an outreach programs coordinator for the Northeast Oregon Network.
But those who have been laid off due to COVID-19 closures also may have lost health benefits that came with the job. Insurance broker Teresa Schwab explained they have some options.
“Your employer is required to offer you a COBRA Plan,” she stated, but most folk pass on that.
The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 is a federal law that allows some employees to continue health insurance coverage after leaving or losing their jobs. Schwab said COBRA “premiums are 100% your responsibility and they are costly.”
People also now qualify for special enrollment for an Affordable Care Act plan, she said, and those who are unemployed or under-employed may qualify for a tax subsidy, meaning they receive reduced premiums.
The federal government has re-opened open enrollment, Schwab explained, allowing people who do not have an insurance plan to apply for coverage online at healthcare.gov. People also can contact a local multi-line insurance broker for other options, she continued, if they do not qualify for the financial assistance and can’t afford the high costs.
Sorensen encouraged locals experiencing layoffs, reduction of income or loss of any health insurance to reach out to Northeast Oregon Network or an insurance agent for free help applying for health insurance or reporting changes to the programs they are enrolled in.
While all types of insurance cover testing for COVID-19, insurance companies determine the cost and scope of coverage for treatment, Sorensen said. And with the constantly changing situation around COVID-19, she said it is possible a strain on the insurance industry is occurring as the result of new client information needing to be processed.
“The customer service lines for insurance programs are likely to be longer, and application processing may take longer in some cases,” Sorensen said.
For those without insurance, the federal government is waiving the cost of the test, but Schwab said those folks would have to pay the hospital bill.