California demands insurers cover cost of coronavirus testing and screenings

Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement: "This action means that Californians who fit the testing requirements can receive the test at no cost."

Gov. Gavin Newsom and state Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara on Thursday announced that they were ordering all public and commercial insurance plans to cover the entire cost of testing for the coronavirus and medically necessary screening.

The orders will ensure that Californians will not have any out-of-pocket expenses for co-pays and deductibles, even if they receive testing and screening at hospital emergency rooms and urgent care facilities, they said.

“This action means that Californians who fit the testing requirements can receive the test at no cost. We’re all in this together, and I’m grateful to those health providers who have already stepped up and heeded our call,” Newsom said in a statement released Thursday afternoon.


When Newsom announced a state of emergency on Wednesday, the governor said the coronavirus lab test is now classified as an essential benefit and public and private healthcare plans, including Medi-Cal, would cover the costs for testing.

There are not expected state costs associated with the new directive, according to the governor’s office.

State officials recommended that Californians without insurance contact their county public health departments to receive information about their options for testing and screening for the coronavirus.

Separately on Thursday, Cigna, one of the nation’s largest health insurers, announced it will waive co-pays and other cost-sharing for coronavirus tests, allowing patients to access the tests without fear of being charged.

“We will do everything we can to help contain the virus, remove barriers to testing and treatment, especially for seniors and people who are chronically ill,” said Cigna chief executive David M. Cordani.


Trump administration officials have also said that they want the test to be an “essential health benefit,” a designation created by the 2010 Affordable Care Act that requires all health plans to cover a set of basic benefits, such as prescription drugs and mental health services.

Such a designation would not make the tests free to patients, however, as essential health benefits are still subject to co-pays and cost-sharing. At the same time, the Trump administration has been working for three years to repeal the healthcare law, often called Obamacare.