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The growing threat of coronavirus demands that high-risk people get tested if they show flu-like symptoms.  Yet some Americans may find it hard to pay for a doctor’s visit, lab testing and treatment.  

Almost all insurance requires a co-pay or co-insurance for patients to be seen by a doctor or pick up a prescription.  Research shows such out-of-pocket costs are a deterrent to care, especially for patients with high-deductible health plans.  This leaves Americans putting off visits to the doctor – and, in the case of coronavirus, potentially infecting others in the meantime.

But New Yorkers should no longer be deterred.  

Last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the state is waving costs associated with testing for coronavirus, or COVID-19.  All tests at the New York state lab are covered, and anyone insured by Medicaid will not have a co-pay associated with getting tested, according to the directive. 

The state is also prohibiting health insurers from imposing cost sharing for visits to the emergency room, urgent care or in-network providers that are associated with COVID-19 testing.  Such a move should encourage patients to seek care quickly, especially if they think they have been exposed.  The move also benefits public health.

Federal funds are available to cover testing costs at federal, state or local public health labs across the country.  But other states and private insurers would do well to relieve patients of testing-related costs at commercial facilities and for the visit to a doctor’s office or urgent care that preempts testing. 

Cost sharing that deters proper health care can undermine patient-centered care.  But in the case of outbreaks like COVID-19, it can also endanger public health.

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