Some initiatives undertaken by health insurance companies related to COVID-19 include waiving out-of-pocket costs for testing, encouraging members to use telehealth and other distance-based options when seeking treatment and specially training employees to answer questions about the virus.
- On March 11, 2020, Kaiser announced that they would be donating $1 million to help fight COVID-19 in the U.S. The donations will go to 10 public health agencies that are working with the CDC to help prevent the spread of the disease.
- For members who have symptoms of COVID-19 and meet criteria for testing, Kaiser is waiving patient costs associated with the testing.
- Kaiser is also encouraging members to use their mail-order prescription service during the outbreak.
- Finally, Kaiser has implemented a new policy on face masks in their clinics. They are issuing face masks only for patients with symptoms in an effort to avoid running out of masks.
- Anthem is waiving out-of-pocket expenses related to COVID-19 testing for members who are fully insured or on one of their Medicaid or Medicare plans.
- Anthem is encouraging members to switch their prescriptions to a 90-day supply by talking to their doctors in order to avoid running out of medication if there is an epidemic. They are also reminding patients of the option to order prescriptions through the mail.
- Anthem has assured members that they are working with providers to prepare for the possibility of increased need for appointments and calls and that they will help members to find alternate care if their doctors are unavailable when needed.
- Humana is also waiving out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 testing for its members who meet the CDC guidelines for testing.
- Humana is also waiving the cost of telemedicine visits for urgent needs for a period of 90 days.
- They are allowing members to get prescription refills early for a period of 30 days. This include 30-day and 90-day prescriptions.
- Finally, Humana has established a specially-trained group of employees within its call center to answer questions and concerns specific to COVID-19.
Health Care Services Corporation
CVS was previously identified as a key player in the health insurance market. We were unable to find information specific to the initiatives of the insurance arm of CVS with relation to COVID-19. Therefore, we included the 6th top key player in this section, Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC), as an alternative.
- HCSC announced on March 6, 2020, that they would not require pre-authorization for COVID-19 testing for members who meet the CDC requirements for testing. They also waived out-of-pocket costs for these tests.
- Since HCSC has many members whose coverage is through a self-insured employer, they are working with those employers on making decisions about how their plans will cover members impacted by the illness.
HEALTH CARE SYSTEMS
Some initiatives undertaken by healthcare systems related to COVID-19 include initiating phone or video screens for the virus instead of having suspected patients come into the office, publishing informational articles and changing hours and availability of facilities.
- Avera Health has posted an alert on their website asking that patients experience COVID-19 symptoms call their health care facility before coming in and that family members with symptoms not visit health care facilities if they are sick.
- Avera has made multiple changes to the hours and availability of its clinics and facilities in response to the spread of COVID-19, including closing locations and controlling access to others.
- On March 11, 2020, Mayo Clinic announced that it would start offering a drive-through site for COVID-19 testing in Rochester, NY. Patients are screened via phone first to ensure they meet the criteria, then directed to the testing site if they do.
- The Mayo Clinic has also published multiple articles about the virus from its medical experts on its website.
- Mercy Health is encouraging patients to consider utilizing virtual visits for their healthcare needs, avoiding contact with others who may be ill and further spreading germs.
- Mercy Health has been educating providers on the CDC guidelines for responding to COVID-19.
- They are screening all patients for COVID-19 at the entrance to facilities.
- They have established a COVID-19 Executive Task Force to enable a faster response.
- St. Luke's is asking patients who have symptoms of COVID-19 to call their care provider before going to the office. They are completing screenings over the phone and, when necessary, arranging for testing.
- St. Luke's is currently testing a telemedicine system that uses videoconferencing and allows patients to use a desktop or laptop computer instead of a mobile device in hopes of encouraging older patients, who are more vulnerable to COVID-19, to seek care via telemedicine during the outbreak.
- UCHealth has implemented a new visitor policy in reaction to the spread of COVID-19. This includes prohibiting visitors with cold or flu symptoms, limiting visits to 2 visitors at a time and excluding visitors under age 12.
- They have established designated negative pressure areas within each facility where suspected COVID-19 patients can be treated without risking infecting other patients.
HEALTH CARE RETAILERS
Some initiatives undertaken by health care retailers related to COVID-19 include providing paid time for employees impacted by the outbreak and making efforts to keep high-demand supplies stocked.
- Amazon has committed to giving all employees unlimited time off through the end of March in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
- They have also committed to giving any employees diagnosed with COVID-19 or quarantined up to two weeks of additional pay.
- Amazon has also established a relief fund to support their delivery partners and their employees, participants in Amazon flex and seasonal employees during the outbreak. Their initial contribution to this fund was $25 million.
- In addition, Amazon has made efforts to stop price gouging of in-demand supplies, such as face masks, by sellers on it marketplace.
- Walmart has established an emergency leave policy, which includes waiving their attendance occurrence policy through April, providing up to two weeks pay for those under quarantine or whose work location is under quarantine. In addition, workers diagnosed with the virus may receive up to 26 weeks of paid time off to recover, as needed.
- Walmart has started redirecting deliveries of in-demand supplies to areas where they are most in need and is taking measures to keep shelves as stocked as possible, including allowing managers to limit purchases of certain supplies.
- They are also taking measures to prevent price gouging by third-party sellers on their website.
- Kroger has limited purchases of certain in-demand products, such as cold, flu and sanitary products, in order to allow access to these supplies for as many people as possible.
- Beginning March 13, 2020, Walgreens will waive delivery fees for prescriptions and online purchases.
- Walgreens is encouraging customers to use services, such as Walgreens Pharmacy Chat, their mobile app and drive through pharmacies if they wish to avoid contact with others.
- Walgreens is limiting purchases of in-demand products to increase available inventory.
- Our research did not reveal any initiatives taken by GNC related to COVID-19. Their website does not include any information on the outbreak or their response to it.
- A search of media and news stories about the company also did not reveal any information on steps taken by the company in response to COVID-19.
CONSUMER HEALTHCARE PRODUCT MANUFACTURERS
Five key players in the consumer healthcare manufacturing industry are Johnson & Johnson, Abbott Laboratories, Sanofi Pharmaceuticals, Glaxo Smith Kline, and Bayer Pharmaceuticals. Some examples of initiatives they have undertaken in response to COVID-19 include making donations and working toward the development of a vaccine.
Johnson & Johnson
- In February, Johnson & Johnson announced that it was making efforts to help fight COVID-19 in China by donating protective gear, equipment and other supplies.
- Johnson & Johnson is actively working to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, calling themselves "uniquely positioned to create a vaccine for this virus."
- Abbott Labratories made donations of over $4.4 million to help fight the COVID-19 outbreak in China, including nutrition products, diagnostic materials and funding.
- Sanofi Pharmaceuticals is working on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.
- They are also working with suppliers to ensure their supplies of their medications stay steady throughout the outbreak.
Glaxo Smoth Kline
- Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK) is working in conjunction with CEPI and Clover to enhance the progress of COVID-19 vaccine options being developed by these companies.
- GSK is also limiting travel of employees.
- Bayer donated medications and funding totaling 1.5 million euros to help fight COVID-19 in China.