UVM Insurance Plan Will Not Pay For Covid-19 Antigen Testing Despite State Advice

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A rapid Covid-19 antigen test is being performed on Friday, December 17, 2021. The University of Vermont has refused to cover home antigen testing for people enrolled in their insurance plan. Photo by Glenn Russell / VTDigger

In an emergency to reign Released earlier this month, Gov. Phil Scott demanded that private health insurance companies cover the cost of home Covid-19 antigen testing for their clients.

And while Vermont cannot force companies that manage their own insurance to do the same, it has encouraged employers with self-insurance plans to “voluntarily follow the rule in anticipation of new federal regulations” which should. enter into force in mid-January.

Now the University of Vermont – one of the state’s largest employers – has refused to follow Scott’s lead.

As health officials wait for an expected spike in Covid-19 cases resulting from the Omicron variant, the demand for home antigen testing has skyrocketed. With a faster turnaround time than slightly more accurate PCR tests, antigen testing has been hailed as a convenient safety check before getting together with other people.

But aside from those taking advantage of the 60,000 antigen tests that will be handed out by the state over the holidays, Vermonters looking for home tests usually have to go to a drugstore and get their wallet. Whether they take cash or an insurance card, however, it may depend on their health coverage.

For Aimee Picchi, it was her credit card. Picchi, who obtains her health insurance from the University of Vermont, said she paid $ 100 to get 10 tests for herself and her family last week. The Burlington resident, 51, wanted to have tests on hand since her daughter was returning from New York University, and the family had planned to attend a few vacation reunions.

After ordering the tests online through CVS Pharmacy, Picchi heard about the Scott administration’s emergency rule and tried to get a refund of the $ 100 she paid. But the insurance company that administers UVM’s insurance plan told him it wasn’t possible.

“Your group of employers, which manages your insurance policy, have informed us that they have chosen not to provide benefits for home COVID-19 antigen testing,” the letter reads. -mail of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont.

The $ 100 credit shortfall didn’t drain Picchi’s bank account, she said, but the university’s decision to opt out of the benefit could hurt other less financially stable people.

“A lot of people don’t have an extra $ 100 to spend on things like this,” Picchi said. Covering up antigen testing “seems like such a good strategy to keep people healthy.”

When Picchi’s husband, university employee Peter Dodds, shared his wife’s discovery on TwitterDr. Timothy Lahey – an infectious disease physician and chief ethics officer at the University of Vermont Medical Center – has publicly criticized the university’s policies.

“Siri, show me an example of the phrase ‘Penny wise and foolish book’,” Lahey said in an quote tweet.

In an email to VTDigger, UVM spokesperson Joel Seligman said the school offers free Covid-19 testing to all of its employees through the testing center on the university’s campus.

The test center, which offers PCR tests, is closed from December 21 to January 4 for the university’s winter break, according to its website.

The testing center would also not serve people who, like Picchi, have health coverage through the school but are not employees.

Antigen testing is available for UVM employees who show symptoms of Covid-19, although it is not done in the testing center, Seligman said.

Seligman pointed out that as a self-insured institution, UVM is exempt from the Scott administration rule.

“We regularly review employee medical benefits to determine what changes might better serve the UVM workforce within affordability for both employees and the university,” said Seligman. He did not specify how often the university reviews its medical performance.

The UVM policy goes against the advice of state officials, who have suggested that self-insured employers may have to perform free home antigen testing next month when the most recent plan President Joe Biden’s coronavirus disease will go into effect.

“Organizations that self-insure are governed by federal law and therefore fall outside the scope of our recent rule on coverage of Covid-19 home tests,” said Mike Pieciak, commissioner of the Department of Regulation Financial, which oversees insurance, in a statement to VTDigger on Wednesday. “We… anticipate that they will be covered by the federal rule that the Biden administration plans to implement in early 2022 that will require similar coverage.”

The university recently cited impending federal action as a justification for forcing the Covid-19 vaccination among its employees.

State officials say the state of emergency will make home antigen testing free for about 140,000 Vermonters. A spokesperson for the Department of Financial Regulation did not provide an estimate of the number of workers who will not benefit from the tests covered by their insurance plan.

Some large employers in Vermont that run their own insurance plans cover antigen testing, including the University of Vermont Health Network and National Life Group.

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Health care

Tags: home tests, coronavirus, COVID-19, health insurance, University of Vermont, UVM

Jacques Lyons

About Jacques

Burlington reporter Jack Lyons graduated in 2021 from the University of Notre Dame. He majored in theology with a minor in journalism, ethics and democracy. Jack has previously interned at the Boston Globe, Berkshire Eagle and WDEV Radio in Waterbury. He also worked freelance for VTDigger while studying remotely during the pandemic in 2020.

E-mail: [email protected]

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