Last week it was noted by several healthcare policy experts that if and when a vaccine for the coronavirus (COVID-19) sweeping the entire planet is ever developed, under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies would be legally required to cover the full cost of it for anyone enrolled in an ACA-compliant policy:

SEC. 2713. COVERAGE OF PREVENTIVE HEALTH SERVICES.

(a) In General.--A group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage shall, at a minimum provide coverage for and shall not impose any cost sharing requirements for--

(1) evidence-based items or services that have in effect a rating of 'A' or 'B' in the current recommendations of the United States Preventive Services Task Force;

(2) immunizations that have in effect a recommendation from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with respect to the individual involved; and

via Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont:

Governor Lamont Announces First Positive Case of Novel Coronavirus Involving a Connecticut Resident

(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Ned Lamont today announced that the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) State Laboratory has confirmed the first presumptive positive case of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) involving a Connecticut resident. The patient, a resident of Wilton who is 40 to 50 years of age, is being treated at Danbury Hospital. The person most likely became infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 during a recent trip to California and sought medical care shortly after returning to Connecticut.

This presumptive COVID-19 case is not related to the COVID-19 case involving a Danbury Hospital employee who is a resident of New York State that was announced on Friday, or the COVID-19 case involving a community physician who made rounds at Bridgeport Hospital and is also a New York State resident that was announced on Saturday.

via David Eggert:

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan health insurers said Friday they will cover the cost of medically necessary tests for the new coronavirus for people covered under employer and individual health plans, while Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the waiving of testing and treatment fees for Medicaid recipients.

...Plans that will waive copays and deductibles for testing costs include Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Blue Care Network, Priority Health, CVS Health, McLaren and Meridian, according to the governor’s office. The change will not apply — for now — to large employers that self-insure but use insurance companies to administer their benefits.

...Blue Cross Blue Shield will forgo prior authorization rules for diagnostic tests and covered services to treat the disease, set aside refill limits on prescriptions, and expand access to telehealth and a 24-hour nurse hotline.

This just in from the Florida Insurance Dept:

TO ALL HEALTH INSURERS AND HEALTH MAINTENANCE ORGANIZATIONS AUTHORIZED TO DO BUSINESS IN FLORIDA

~ INSURANCE COVERAGE FOR CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) ~

In response to the Executive Order #2020-51 issued by Governor Ron DeSantis establishing COVID-19 response protocols and directing a public health emergency in Florida, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) is issuing this Informational Memorandum to all health insurers authorized to do business in Florida to help facilitate the state’s ongoing efforts to protect Floridians.

Heightened Communication and Customer Service

This is likely to turn into a repetitive headline over the next couple of weeks as more states follow New York's lead in issuing similar blanket Executive Orders or State of Emergency declarations:

California orders insurers to waive out-of-pocket costs for coronavirus testing

California on Thursday became the latest state to order insurance companies to waive out-of-pocket costs for coronavirus testing.

The California Department of Insurance and Department of Managed Health Care ordered all full-service commercial and Medi-Cal plans to “immediately reduce cost-sharing — including, but not limited to, co-pays, deductibles or coinsurance — to zero for all medically necessary screening and testing for COVID-19, including hospital, emergency department, urgent care and provider office visits where the purpose of the visit is to be screened and/or tested for COVID-19.”

Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation notes:

 

Not much to add to this. Via RawStory:

At a town hall meeting on Fox News Thursday, President Donald Trump acknowledged that his administration intends to cut Social Security and Medicare.

“We — when these trade deals kick in, you know this economy is the best economy we’ve ever had. It’s nothing to what it’s going to be when the trade deals kick in,” said Trump.

“But if you don’t cut something in entitlements, you’ll never really deal with that,” said the questioner.

“We’ll be cutting, but we’re also going to have growth like you’ve never had before,” said Trump.

Ah. Just what you want in the middle of a reelection campaign and a deadly pandemic outbreak.

video clip originally captured by Pod Save America.

Oh yeah...there's also this:

 

Vice-President Mike Pence, best known for botching the response to an HIV outbreak while Governor of Indiana (causing up to 200 additional residents to be infected with the disease due to his poor handling of it) has, naturally, now been put in charge of the federal response to the #COVID19 outbreak nationally:

On Wednesday February 26, President Trump placed Vice President Mike Pence in charge of the response to the coronavirus outbreak in the United States. The gesture was partly politics—signaling the disease was important enough to require the vice president’s attention—but also built on a claim about Pence’s expertise as the former governor of Indiana. As he assigned him to this task, the president praised Pence, maintaining that Indiana under his leadership was a model for the country in its approach to health.

OK, this is actually from two days ago but it's been kind of a busy news cycle...

Governor Whitmer Creates Task Forces to Combat Spread of Coronavirus

March 3, 2020 

Governor creates COVID-19 task forces focused on state operations, health care, education, and the workforce 

 LANSING, Mich. -- Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the creation of four task forces to combat the spread of coronavirus and assess the impact it may have on Michiganders’ day-to-day lives. The task forces include: 

This just in from the WA State Insurance Commissioner's office:

Kreidler orders Washington health insurers to waive deductibles and copays for coronavirus testing

Contact Public Affairs: 360-725-7055

March 5, 2020

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler issued an emergency order to Washington state health insurers requiring them to waive copays and deductibles for any consumer requiring testing  for coronavirus (COVID-19).

Insurers also must: 

 

I'm not sure how else to put this, but it's basically like if the mayor in Jaws not only refused to close the beach, but actually went on the radio and specifically told people with open wounds to go swimming and that the shark just wants to play tug-of-war with their legs.

As Vox journalist Aaron Rupar puts it:

In this clip, Trump:
1. Denies WHO's coronavirus death rate based on “hunch"
2. Calls coronavirus "corona flu"
3. Suggests it's fine for people w/ Covid-19 to go to work
4. Compares coronavirus to "the regular flu," indicating he doesn't get the difference

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 5, 2020

Suffice to say:

This just broke moments ago so I don't have much in the way of details yet:

DC district court just entered summary judgment holding Michigan’s Medicaid work requirements are unlawful.

— Jane Perkins (@perkins_nhelp) March 4, 2020

Work requirements are a policy disaster -- and their suspension by court order here in Michigan is an extraordinarily positive development.

— Nicholas Bagley (@nicholas_bagley) March 4, 2020

There is, however, also this:

 

My post from yesterday was pretty harsh on a Medicare for All advocate (though not on Medicare for All itself, contrary to what some people seem to think), so I figured I should follow up with something a bit friendlier today. Via Helaine Olin in the Washington Post:

Osmel Martinez Azcue wanted to do the right thing, for both his own health and the health of the nation. When the Florida resident came down with flu-like symptoms shortly after returning from a trip to China, he immediately went to a local hospital to get tested for coronavirus.

A few weeks later, according to the Miami Herald, Azcue received an invoice for more than $3,000. His insurer claims he’s responsible for $1,400 of the total. He’s expecting even more bills to arrive over the next few weeks.

Yesterday the first confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) was reported in the nation's largest city:

A 39-year-old Manhattan woman has tested positive for COVID-19, more commonly known as the novel coronavirus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said late Sunday. She is the first confirmed case in the city and in the tri-state area.

"The patient, a woman in her late thirties, contracted the virus while traveling abroad in Iran, and is currently isolated in her home," Cuomo said in making the announcement late Sunday.

The governor said that the woman is a health care worker, and that her background allowed her to take the appropriate precautions and seek testing. She flew back to New York on Tuesday but did not take mass transit home, Cuomo said Monday. As a precaution, the people on her flight and the ride-share driver are being notified about potential exposure, but Cuomo said the woman was not thought to be contagious at that time. She has respiratory symptoms but Cuomo described them as mild.

Disclosure: I publicly endorsed Joe Biden in the Democratic primary yesterday. It had nothing to do with this post, however. Shout-out to Pradheep Shanker for bringing this to my attention.

Updated w/my exchange with Rep. Khanna at the bottom

Update: I added "(nearly all)" to the headline for extra clarity given the subject of this entry.

Ro Khanna is a Democratic Congressman representing CA-17. He's also a top Bernie Sanders surrogate and a huge Medicare for All advocate.

About an hour ago, he was interviewed on NPR for about five minutes regarding the Caronavirus, tomorrow's California Presidential primary...and Bernie Sanders' Medicare for All plan.

I'm transcribing the relevant portion of the interview verbatim just to make certain there are no misunderstandings...the M4All exchange begins at around 3:20 in:

About a month ago I wrote a flow chart, of sorts, explaining the different potential permutations of the absurd Texas vs. Azar (aka Texas vs. U.S., aka #TexasFoldEm) lawsuit which threatens the entire Affordable Care Act. Since then there's been a few more developments (actually, a few more non-developments), the timing of which change the potential landscape a bit.

Sometime this morning the Supreme Court is expected to announce whether they'll intervene in the case:

Hey everyone! The Supreme Court may announce at at 9:30am today its decision about whether to take the big Affordable Care Act case.
If it says yes, it'll hear argument in the fall (around the election!). If it says no, it'll take another three years or so to get a final answer.

— Nicholas Bagley (@nicholas_bagley) March 2, 2020

Here's the catch, though:

If yes, they'll HEAR the case in the fall...but when would they announce their *decision*?

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