AARP Answers: Your Insurance Coverage and the Coronavirus
The latest on auto, home, life and health policies during the outbreak
Yes. As long you have an active life insurance policy in good standing, your beneficiary or beneficiaries will get a death benefit should you die of coronavirus-related complications.
In addition, your insurer cannot change your premiums or your health classification because you have or had COVID-19 or are at higher risk of exposure due to your job or recent travel to a virus hot spot.
Claims on social media that life insurance companies will not pay off on a policy if the customer received a COVID-19 vaccine are "entirely false," according to the American Council of Life Insurers.
"Life insurers do not consider whether or not a policyholder has received a COVID vaccine when deciding whether to pay a claim," the trade group said in a statement on its website. "Nothing has changed in the claims-paying process as a result of COVID-19 vaccinations."
What if I don't have life insurance? Can I get it during the pandemic?
Yes. Insurers continue to offer new whole life and term life policies. “We have seen an increase in life insurance applications, perhaps as a result of the pandemic,” says Gina Morss-Fischer, a public affairs specialist at State Farm.
However, getting covered could take longer, particularly if you are in a high-risk group, have recently traveled to a hot zone or had COVID-19 yourself.
“It has become relatively common for survivors of COVID-19 to have their life insurance application be postponed for 30 days and provide medical records or other valid evidence that they are fully recovered,” says Eloise Spinello, a life insurance expert with online insurance marketplace Policygenius.
Nationwide, for example, will consider a policy for someone who tested positive for COVID-19, but did not need hospitalization, once they’ve been symptom-free for 30 days. If the applicant was hospitalized, the waiting period is six months, a company spokesperson says.
Age is a risk factor for COVID-19 — are life insurers taking that into account?
Some are. Several large insurers restricted sales of new life policies for older adults. For example, Prudential, Lincoln National, Protective Life and Securian suspended or postponed policy applications for people age 80 and over.
Spinello says some companies have loosened age restrictions put in place early in the pandemic “as they’ve gained more information and data about what constitutes a higher COVID-19 risk.” Mutual of Omaha, for example, initially suspended sales of fully underwritten life policies (which require a medical exam) for those age 70 and over but has since raised the cut-off age to 80.
“Insurers will continue to evaluate the situation as more data becomes available, and they are watching the vaccine rollout closely,” Spinello says.
Could the outbreak affect my long-term care (LTC) insurance?
According to Genworth, which issues LTC policies, premiums for existing policies can’t be raised for specific customers due to individual circumstances. However, rates can be subject to periodic group increases based on an insurer’s claims history, or actuarial projections for future claims.
For example, using claims or actuarial data, insurers can ask state regulators to let them increase LTC premiums for groups of similar policyholders in that state.
Any changes arising from the outbreak “wouldn’t happen immediately, as the insurers need time to do the proper research and analysis to verify necessary rate changes,” Policygenius CEO Jennifer Fitzgerald says. “As of now, we have not seen any impact on [existing] long-term care policies because of coronavirus.”
The outbreak could have an effect if you are looking to purchase a new LTC policy. As with life insurance, age and health status can affect whether you qualify for long-term care insurance and what you pay. LTC insurers may take into account whether you are at elevated risk or have tested positive for COVID-19 in assessing a policy application.
Are auto and home insurers offering policyholders any financial relief?
Many did in the earlier stages of the pandemic. With most Americans sheltering in place and staying off the roads, major auto insurers provided partial refunds on premiums to customers in the spring and summer of 2020.
While those companies have resumed normal billing, many offer help on a case-by-case basis to auto and home policyholders facing coronavirus-related financial hardship — for example, you may be able to request a flexible payment plan or other relief. In addition, some states have issued guidelines on billing leniency for insurance customers during the pandemic. Check your insurance company’s coronavirus web page or contact your state’s insurance department to learn about your options, and talk to your insurer before skipping any payments.
My business was temporarily shut down by the pandemic. Will insurance cover my losses?
It depends on the terms of your policy. Talk to your insurance company or broker, but be prepared for bad news: Even if your insurance includes “business interruption” coverage, it might not cover losses from the outbreak.
Business interruption coverage is typically tied to physical damage from a cause you are insured for, such as a fire or hurricane. Absent such damage, it can be difficult to press a claim, says Shannon O’Malley, a partner in the Dallas office of the national law firm Zelle LLP, who wrote in-depth analysis of the issue early in the pandemic.
In addition, many business policies explicitly exclude claims arising from a virus or communicable disease, or don’t address those causes, which can effectively mean the same thing.
A flurry of lawsuits filed by businesses ranging from restaurants and hair salons to Major League Baseball teams have challenged insurance companies’ denial of COVID-related claims, but state and federal courts are largely finding for the insurers, according to tracking by the University of Pennsylvania’s Carey Law School.
Even if a policy includes “civil authority” provisions related to a government order to close, these typically require that the order arise from physical damage caused by a covered event, O’Malley says. Claims on this basis are complex and contingent on individual circumstances; consider consulting an attorney well versed in insurance law to discuss your situation.
Will my health insurer make me pay anything if I need coronavirus treatment?
Probably. Most large insurers waived cost-sharing for COVID-19 treatment for most of 2020 and into 2021, but they are now generally applying copays, coinsurance and deductibles for such services.
Regardless of your insurer, you should not have to pay anything out of pocket for federally approved COVID-19 vaccines. Major insurers continue to cover COVID-19 diagnostic tests in most circumstances and, under federal guidelines, must pay for up to eight at-home rapid tests a month for members of their plans. (You may need to pay upfront for over-the-counter rapid tests and file a claim with your insurer for reimbursement; check with your plan provider.)
More information is available from insurers’ websites. If your provider is not listed, call your health plan’s customer service number to find out about its coronavirus response.
- Aetna: No cost-sharing for diagnostic testing to determine whether treatment is needed, or for antibody tests ordered by a physician or medical professional. The waiver does not apply to tests for the purpose of returning to work or school, except as required by law. Cost-sharing is in effect for treatment for COVID-19.
- Anthem: No out-of-pocket costs for doctor-ordered COVID-19 testing and test-related visits. Copays, coinsurance and deductibles apply for COVID-19 medical care, according to the terms of your health plan.
- Blue Cross/Blue Shield: Blue Cross/Blue Shield is an association of member companies that operate independently, and COVID-19 cost-sharing policies may differ from state to state. Use the map at the Blue Cross/Blue Shield coronavirus web page to check on procedures in your state.
- Cigna: No out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 diagnostic tests, or for diagnostic office visits with an in-network provider, through the end of the federally declared public health emergency, which currently runs until July 15, 2022. There is cost-sharing for COVID-19 treatment.
- Health Care Services Corporation (HCSC): No cost-sharing for FDA-approved COVID-19 diagnostic tests or for testing-related visits with in-network providers until the end of the public health emergency. Out-of-pockets costs apply for COVID-19 treatment.
- Humana: COVID-19 diagnostic tests are 100 percent covered for Medicare Advantage plan holders in all circumstances and for members insured through employer plans if the test is ordered by a health care professional. Out-of-pockets costs for COVID-19 treatment are waived for the 2022 plan year for Medicare Advantage members, but standard copays, coinsurance and deductibles apply for people with employer plans.
- Kaiser Permanente: No-cost testing is available to members. COVID-19 treatment is subject to your policy's cost-sharing provisions.
- United Healthcare: No out-of-pocket costs for FDA-approved diagnostic tests ordered by a health care professional, or for testing-related visits, during the federal public health emergency. Standard cost-sharing applies for COVID-19 treatment.
Is Medicare covering COVID-19 vaccines, testing and treatment?
Medicare will pay all costs for any federally authorized COVID-19 vaccine, for testing ordered by a doctor or other health care provider, and for over-the-counter at-home tests (up to eight per month). There will be no out-of-pocket costs, whether you have Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan.
People with original Medicare who are hospitalized for COVID-19 treatment will still have deductibles and copays. If you have a supplemental Medigap plan, it may cover these costs. If you have Medicare Advantage, out-of-pocket costs for hospital and outpatient treatment vary by plan. Contact your Advantage plan provider.
You'll find more information in our AARP Answers on Medicare and the coronavirus.
What about Affordable Care Act (ACA) health plans?
Heath insurance purchased through the ACA marketplace is required to cover emergency services and hospitalization, and that would apply to such treatment for COVID-19. You may incur out-of-pocket costs, depending on your plan. Ask your plan provider about its coverage.
I don't have health insurance. Can I get covered?
You may be able to get Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for low-income people, or an ACA plan.
Medicaid enrollment is open all year. More than 13 million people have signed up since the start of the pandemic, according to tracking by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Eligibility is based primarily on income and differs by state — contact your state's Medicaid program for information.
ACA plans in most states are sold through the federal marketplace. Open enrollment for 2022 plans ended Jan. 15. For 2023 coverage, federal open enrollment runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15. Some states operate their own ACA exchanges and maintain different enrollment periods; check with your state's exchange for information.
Outside of your state's open enrollment window, you can sign up for an ACA plan if you qualify for a special enrollment period due to a life-changing event, such as a loss of previous health coverage.
Some health insurers sell short-term policies with low premiums, but these offer limited benefits and, unlike with Medicaid and ACA plans, you can be turned down for a preexisting condition. Closely read and carefully consider a short-term plan's provisions before signing up.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect new COVID-19 information.