Coronavirus Update: Week 2

According to the CDC, as of April 8, 48 U.S. states and 1 U.S. territory have reported some community spread of the coronavirus. Of these states, New York has the most confirmed cases and  has seen 779 deaths in the state in one 24 hour period, the highest one-day total so far. With social distancing and stay at home orders being put into effect, there is still hope of the curve of infection flattening. However, researchers project this week and next week to see the peak of COVID-19 infections. 

White sign with black letters that say "coming soon" in the middle
Trump said he would like to reopen the U.S. economy soon.



Trump Says U.S. Could Reopen Soon

On Wednesday, April 8, President Trump said he would like to reopen the U.S. economy, but only once the death rate begins to slow. There is not an official timeline for when businesses will begin to reopen, but his chief economic adviser has said that it could happen in 4-8 weeks.

CDC Issues New Return-To-Work Guidelines

The CDC has now said that essential workers who have been exposed to people infected with Coronavirus can go back to work as long as they don’t feel sick. However, because it is possible to be asymptomatic and still spread the virus, the CDC director, Dr. Robert Redfield, has issued the following workplace guidelines to protect all essential workers and the people they come in contact with: 

person in white coat with blue gloves on holding a thermometer in one hand and pointing at the audience with the other.  half of a caucasian man's face wearing a light gray mask. sign with 2 silhouettes standing next to each other with red circle with cross over it.

  • Employees must take their temperature before heading to work.
  • Face masks must be worn at all times.
  • Practice social distancing as much as possible, don’t overcrowd break rooms, etc.
  • Avoid sharing headsets and other equipment that touches the face.

If employees develop any symptoms, then employers should send them home immediately. Dr. Redfield also notes that companies should increase air exchange in their buildings, as well as  regularly clean and disinfect surfaces.

WHO Lists 2 Tests For Emergency Use

In order to help increase access to quality-assured, accurate tests for COVID-19, the WHO has listed 2 tests for emergency use during the pandemic. The two tests are genesig Real-Time PCR Coronavirus (COVID-19) and cobas SARS-CoV-2 Qualitative assay for use on the cobas® 6800/8800 Systems.

“The emergency use listing of these products will enable countries to increase testing with quality assured diagnostics,” says Dr Mariângela Simão, WHO Assistant-Director General for Medicines and Health Products. “Facilitating access to accurate tests is essential for countries to address the pandemic with the best tools possible.” There is no word yet on the availability of these tests in the U.S. 

caucasian man laying on a couch with a remote in his hand with a blurred tv in the background.

WHO, Lady Gaga & Global Citizen To Host Global Concert

International advocacy organization Global Citizen and the World Health Organization (WHO) have announced that they will host a globally televised concert, One World: Together At Home. The global concert is set to air on Saturday April 18, 2020 to celebrate and support healthcare workers, help unify people during the pandemic, and raise funds to fight the pandemic.

According to the WHO’s website, along with Lady Gaga, the broadcast is set to include Alanis Morissette, Billie Eilish, Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, Chris Martin, David Beckham, Elton John, Idris and Sabrina Elba, John Legend, Kacey Musgraves, Keith Urban, Kerry Washington, Lizzo, Paul McCartney, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Shah Rukh Khan, Stevie Wonder, and  many more artists and celebrities.

The New Telehealth Guidelines For COVID-19

On March 6,2020, Congress signed the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, which provides emergency relief to the nation during the current COVID-19 health emergency. In order to protect Americans and get ahead of the spread of the virus, the bill allows for expanded use of telemedicine services. The bill also includes waivers to certain Medicare restrictions to protect vulnerable seniors, allowing everyone to receive telehealth care covered by Medicare throughout this crisis. 

caucasian man in bed with a tissue in one hand and thermomter in the other with a laptop on the bed and a doctor on the screen.
Telehealth can be useful in many situations, especially when patients cannot get to their doctor’s office.

What Is Telehealth?

Telehealth refers to the exchange of medical information using some form of real-time video chat. It can be useful in many situations, especially when patients cannot get to their doctor’s office. Health insurance companies and Medicare do normally cover some telehealth services, including doctor’s visits and consultations, but only in limited circumstances. Prior to the waiver signed in March, patients generally needed to live in a rural area to have their telehealth care covered. They also needed to be at one of the following locations: 

  • A doctor’s office
  • A hospital
  • A critical access hospital (CAH)
  • A rural health clinic 
  • A federally qualified health center
  • A hospital-based dialysis facility
  • A skilled nursing facility
  • A community mental health center

These restrictions obviously meant that patients would often have to leave their homes in order to access telehealth services, which is not ideal during a pandemic.  

Changes to Telehealth Services

Not only will insurance providers now cover these visits, but there are other key changes that extend coverage during this crisis.

  • The Health and Human Services (HHS) Inspector General is allowing healthcare providers to waive cost-sharing requirements for COVID-19-related telehealth visits. 
  • The CMS has waived reimbursement restrictions on practicing across state lines. However, doctors will still need a state licensure to deliver care in that state.
  • The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has eased restrictions on the types of controlled substances providers can prescribe during a telehealth visit.

    hundred dollar bills sprawled out on a table
    Medicare will pay for brief (5-10 minute) “virtual check-ins.”
  • Medicare will pay for brief (5-10 minute) “virtual check-ins” with a patient’s normal doctor, no matter where they are located. The usual copay and deductible for these check-ins will be waived.
  • Providers can use popular apps for video chats, such as Apple FaceTime, Good Hangouts video, Skype, and Facebook Messenger video chat.
  • The HHS Office of Civil Rights will waive penalties for HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) violations against healthcare providers who use video chatting apps with their patients “in good faith.” This means they will not be held responsible for any claims of violations of privacy.

Temporary Medicare Regulations

As discussed above, telehealth coverage is limited under normal circumstances. However, we are now in the middle of a global pandemic and it is very important that seniors stay at home and avoid contact with others. COVID-19 is highly contagious and more deadly for older adults (as well as those with compromised immune systems), so going to a doctor’s office now can present serious health risks for people over 65. 

The new legislation signed in March allows the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to expand telehealth services available to Medicare beneficiaries so that they do not have to travel to their doctor’s office. According to, now “doctors and other health care providers can use telehealth services to treat COVID-19 (and for other medically reasonable purposes) from offices, hospitals, and places of residence (like homes, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities.” These visits will be covered at the same rates as face-to-face visits for the time being.  

Telehealth services are being extended during the current COVID-19 pandemic in order to reduce the risk of infection in doctors’ offices. These changes will allow doctors to provide care without worrying about packing their offices with vulnerable patients, and patients to stay home and receive care without worrying about an unexpected bill.

Insurance Providers Cigna, Aetna & Humana Waive Patients’ Share of COVID-19 Treatment Costs

Protecting Americans and their health is a high priority, especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to help keep Americans safe, major health insurance providers are waiving copayments and cost-sharing for patients with the coronavirus. These companies (and all other insurance providers) will also not require copays for coronavirus testing thanks to the $2 trillion CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Safety) Act passed last week. 

woman sitting in a hospital bed with an IV machine connected
Aetna is going to waive costs, but only for hospital admissions related to the coronavirus.

The medical bills that follow treatment for the virus can be astronomical, which is why these providers are stepping in. Cigna and Humana have dedicated themselves to providing the care these patients need without worrying about the cost. CVS Health announced that Aetna is going to waive costs, but only for hospital admissions related to the coronavirus.

The Waived Cost-Sharing Fees

These three insurers have decided to waive cost-sharing associated with COVID-19 treatments, which means a patient will not have to pay their full deductible before insurance takes over. This includes coinsurance as well as copayments. In other words, patients will not have to worry about paying out-of-pocket while getting treated for the coronavirus. These insurers are doing this to allow  people to seek treatment without fear of large medical bills, which may deter some from seeking treatment. This is especially true for the millions of Americans that lost their jobs and cannot afford these kinds of costs.

As of right now, Aetna and Cigna are waiving fees for qualified medical bills through June 1, 2020. Humana has not yet set an ending date for this arrangement.

These insurers have also waived telehealth service fees related to the virus.

Some Will Pay

person's hand holsing a pencil pointing at a bill with a caluculator to the right

Unfortunately, only some people will benefit from these arrangements. If a person is not insured by one of these three companies (or is not insured at all), then they may have to pay for services related to the coronavirus. 

In addition, Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, notes that even some people who are covered by these insurance companies might not be eligible to have their costs waived. “Most of the people who get insurance through employers are in what are called self-funded plans,” he explains. For people in those plans, these announcements don’t apply, since “it’s the employers who are going to be deciding whether patients get cost relief here or not.”

It is also important to note that if a person receives care outside of their health insurance network, they will be billed directly by the hospitals or doctors. The services may end up being covered, but these surprise bills are something to be aware of. 

In this time of crisis, it is important for Americans to have access to the testing for and treatment of this virus. It is the only way to get a handle on the situation, and hopefully slow the progression of the disease.

COVID-19 Crisis: Health Insurance Options If You’ve Lost Your Job

As millions of Americans lose their jobs due to the coronavirus crisis, they also find themselves without health insurance coverage. According to a report by FOX Business unemployment claims have hit a record 3.3 million. Because many Americans get health insurance through their employers, a pandemic is an especially scary time for people who have lost their jobs. However, if you do find yourself without health insurance, there are a couple of options you can look into.

A pair of shoes stanfing in front of three white arrows on asphalt pointing in different directions.
Even though you have lost your job and health benefits due to the coronavirus pandemic, you still have options for health insurance coverage.


Normally a person can only sign up for Marketplace health insurance, or the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchange, during the open enrollment period from November 1 to December 15. However, under certain circumstances, people can qualify for a special enrollment period, which would allow them to enroll in a plan outside of open enrollment. Losing your job is considered a qualification for a special enrollment period.

There is only a 60 day window to apply for an ACA plan after you lose your job. These plans can be costly, but if you fall into a  low-income bracket, then you may qualify for a subsidy.

Recently, the Trump administration decided to not create a special coronavirus-related re- enrollment period for the uninsured in 38 states. Only 11 states and the District of Columbia run their own exchanges, and have opened enrollment to allow laid-off workers to get subsidized health insurance. These 11 states are:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Nevada
  • New York
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington

It is important to note that just because these 38 states will not re-open enrollment for everyone, does not mean that you do not qualify for special enrollment. If you were laid off from your job, you can enroll into the ACA exchange because that is one of the qualifications for a special enrollment period.


health insurance words in a blue box with a green check in a box next to a yes
You can choose to extend your employer’s health insurance for up to 18 months following unemployment.

There is also a way to keep your employer-based coverage even if you lose your job. Under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985, or COBRA, you can extend your coverage for up to 18 months. However, it is important to note that COBRA can be quite expensive, because you are required to pay your entire premium. For example, if individual health insurance coverage costs roughly about $600 monthly, then normally your employer would pay for about $500 of that. Without an employer contributing to the cost of  monthly premiums, you will be left to pay for it all.


If you lose your source of income, you may qualify for Medicaid. Medicaid is government sponsored, and offers coverage for low-income individuals and people with disabilities. States look at your current income when deciding if you qualify for assistance from the program. Eligibility varies by state, but the monthly income limits are about $1,470 for an individual, and $3,000 for a family of four. You can apply online, or call your state’s Medicaid office, and will usually receive a response within 24 hours.

If you have recently lost your job due to the coronavirus pandemic, EZ will help you find an affordable plan to cover your health needs. We will provide you with a personal agent who will compare all the available plans in your area, and find one that fits your needs. To get started, enter your zip code in the bar above, or to speak with an agent, call 888-350-1890. Our promise to you is to help you find a plan, so you can remain healthy and safe during these hard times. EZ’s services are free of charge, because our service is focused on making sure that you feel supported throughout your health plan shopping journey, not on making money off of you.

Coronavirus Update: Week 1

As everyone is now aware, we are currently in the middle of a global pandemic. This week, Italy recorded its lowest death toll since the beginning of the outbreak, but other countries, including the U.S., cannot say the same. Coronavirus cases in the U.S. have now surpassed those of China and Italy, leaving the U.S. as the global leader in cases. As of April 1, the current total number of cases in the U.S. was 186,101, with 3,603 deaths. 

face mask on top of 100 dollar bills.
Health insurance providers Cigna and Humana have waived cost-sharing fees for treatment of and testing for the coronavirus.

The spread shows no signs of slowing down, with some reports indicating that the number of cases is doubling every two days. New measures are being taken to help slow the spread of the virus, to ensure more Americans are receiving healthcare, and to boost the economy.

Cost-Sharing Fees Waived

Health insurance providers Cigna and Humana have waived cost-sharing fees for treatment of and testing for the coronavirus. Patients will not have to pay any deductibles, copays, or coinsurance. Aetna has also signed on to some of this arrangement, but will only waive cost sharing for inpatient hospital admissions related to the virus.

New Telehealth GuidelinesCaucasian woman sitting in her bed with a laptop open in front of her.

Under the president’s 1135 waiver authority and the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations (CARES) Act, telehealth services have been expanded. The expansion is considered temporary and is on an emergency basis. Services and costs will be covered in order to prevent people making unnecessary trips to the doctors’ office. Medicare will also cover these services for their beneficiaries so that they will be able to speak to their doctor from the safety of their own homes.

Job Loss & Stimulus Checks

With many states issuing “stay at home” orders, many businesses that are considered nonessential have been forced to close and Americans have been losing their jobs at record rates. The number of jobless claims, currently 3.3 million, continues to rise, marking the largest unemployment rate jump in U.S. history. To help with this situation President Trump has signed a  $2 trillion bipartisan economic stimulus bill. The bill includes $1,200 government checks for individuals making under $75,000 a year, and an expansion of unemployment insurance.

Malaria Drug Trials

Box filled with pills in cases
The malaria drug hydroxychloroquine showed promise in fighting coronavirus in a small trial of patients.

The malaria drug hydroxychloroquine showed promise in fighting coronavirus in a small trial of patients in a Chinese study. Those who received the drug experienced a quicker  spike in their fevers and coughs than those without the treatment. This faster spike meant that the patients experienced shorter periods with coughs and fevers, suggesting that the drug can help speed recovery time. The FDA has issued an emergency authorization for experimental treatments of this drug. Hydroxychloroquine  will be “distributed and prescribed by doctors to hospitalized teen and adult patients with COVID-19, as appropriate, when a clinical trial is not available or feasible,” HHS said. The FDA has allowed New York to begin using the drugs to treat seriously ill patients as part of an “observational” trial.