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AARP Answers: Your Insurance Coverage and the Coronavirus

The latest on auto, home, life and health policies during the outbreak

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Will my life insurance policy cover COVID-19?

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. That holds even if you contract COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, or are at higher risk of exposure due to your job or recent travel to a virus hot spot.

What if I don't have life insurance? Can I get it during the pandemic?

Insurers are offering new whole life and term life policies during the pandemic, but getting covered could take longer and cost more than it did before the outbreak began, according to Jennifer Fitzgerald, CEO of the online insurance marketplace Policygenius.

"We've seen some life insurance carriers raise rates and we expect more to follow suit,” she says.

Insurers are likely to consider a number of coronavirus-related questions in weighing new life insurance policies and may delay applications if, for example, you've recently traveled to a coronavirus hot spot or had close contact with someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Another wrinkle: Some life insurance policies require an in-person medical exam, so the process will be delayed if you live in a state where such visits are restricted by stay-at-home orders. You can shop for no-exam policies, but they tend to have higher premiums and lower benefits.

Age is a also considered a risk factor for COVID-19 — are life insurers taking that into account?

Some are. Several of the largest insurance companies have temporarily suspended sales of new life policies for older adults. For example:

  • Prudential, Lincoln National and Protective Life have suspended or delayed policy applications for people aged 80 and over. 
  • Securian is not accepting applications from consumers who are 75 and up until at least Dec. 31.
  • Mutual of Omaha has suspended sales of fully underwritten life policies (which require a medical exam) for those aged 70 and up. The company continues to sell non-underwritten whole-life policies regardless of age.

Guardian Life, MassMutual, Nationwide and State Farm tell AARP they have not instituted any changes in application or approval procedures based on age. We have contacted several other major insurers and we will update this article as we receive new information.

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,” 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, and some still are, pursuant to state regulations or by customer request.

With most Americans sheltering in place and staying off the roads, more than two dozen auto insurers — among them Allstate, American Family, Farmers, Geico, The Hartford, Liberty Mutual, Nationwide, State Farm, Progressive, Travelers and USAA — offered partial refunds on premiums during the spring. (The Hartford’s products include AARP-branded auto policies.)

In most cases the paybacks ranged from 15 to 25 percent of a customer’s premiums over a two- or three-month period that wrapped up at the end of May or June. Exceptions include American Family and Nationwide, which gave auto customers a one-time $50 refund, and Geico, whose 15 percent credit covers six months of payments for semiannual policies renewed or started through Oct. 7.

Allstate home and auto policyholders can ask the company to defer premium payments, without penalty, if they are facing pandemic-related financial hardship. Several other major insurers, including CNA, Farmers, Geico, Progressive, Travelers and USAA, temporarily suspended policy cancellations for nonpayment and waived late fees for parts of the spring. Those measures generally lapsed in May, but several states and the District of Columbia have ordered insurers to extend leniency periods into July or August. 

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.

Will it take longer for auto and home claims to get processed?

Possibly. Many insurance claims involve person-to-person contacts that may be restricted or affected during the pandemic.

For example, insurers may not be able to send an adjuster to investigate a home or auto claim. Wait times to get an agent on the phone may be longer. Third parties that play a role in damage claims, such as contractors and car repair shops, may be closed or keeping limited hours.

"Because of this, one of the big things we're seeing changing is how consumers file claims, both for home and auto insurance,” Fitzgerald says. “Some insurers are transitioning to allowing their policyholders to file virtual claims."

My small business was 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 has written an in-depth analysis of the coronavirus and property insurance.

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.

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?

It depends on your health plan. Most large insurers have temporarily waived cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing and treatment. If you are covered by one of those providers, you probably won't pay deductibles, coinsurance or copayments for coronavirus-related medical services for a set period

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. Out-of-pocket costs for inpatient treatment for COVID-19 are waived through Dec. 31.
  • Anthem: No out-of-pocket costs for doctor-ordered COVID-19 testing and related visits. Cost-sharing is waived for COVID-19 treatment from hospitals and health care providers in your plan’s network, through Dec. 31.
  • Blue Cross/Blue ShieldBlue Cross/Blue Shield is an association of member companies that operate independently, and COVID-19 cost-sharing policies may differ state-by-state. Use the map at the Blues’ coronavirus web page to check on procedures in your state.
  • Cigna: Copays, coinsurance and deductibles are waived for all COVID-19 treatment through Dec. 31; for FDA-approved diagnostic tests through Jan. 21, 2021; and for coronavirus-related diagnostic visits with an in-network provider through Jan. 21, 2021.   
  • 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 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ends the COVID-19 public health emergency. Out-of-pocket costs are waived for COVID-19 treatment through the end of 2020. 
  • HumanaNo out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 testing and treatment, in or out of network. (The company encourages members to use in-network providers because treatment outside the network could be subject to unexpected “balance billing.”) There is no current end date. Humana is also waiving cost-sharing for in-network primary care and telehealth visits and for outpatient behavioral health care (whether coronavirus related or not) for members of its Medicare Advantage plans, through Dec. 31. 
  • Kaiser PermanenteNo cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing when referred by a network physician. Out-of-pocket costs for treatment are waived through Dec. 31. In some plans the waiver may not apply to non-urgent or non-emergency care by out-of-network providers.
  • United HealthcareNo cost-sharing for FDA-approved diagnostic tests ordered by a health care professional or for testing-related visits, whether in or out of network, for the duration of the public health emergency, which is currently scheduled to end on Jan. 20, 2021. Cost-sharing for COVID-19 treatment by network providers is waived through Dec. 31. 

Is Medicare covering COVID-19 testing and treatment?

Medicare will pay all costs for COVID-19 testing ordered by a doctor or other health care provider, and for services related to testing, such as office and emergency room visits. Beneficiaries will pay nothing for testing.

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?

Plans purchased through the ACA marketplace are 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.

Some major providers of ACA plans, such as Centene and Molina Healthcare, have waived cost-sharing on coronavirus treatment for marketplace customers. Ask your plan provider about its coverage.

For more information, see the AARP Answers on ACA insurance and the coronavirus.

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, depending on your finances, location or other factors.

Medicaid enrollment is open all year. More than 4 million people have signed up since the start of the pandemic, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Eligibility is based primarily on income and differs by state — contact your state's Medicaid program for information.

ACA sign-up is typically limited to a set period each fall, but you can get a special enrollment period if you have a life-changing event, such as a loss of previous health coverage. In addition, several states that run their own ACA exchanges have temporarily reopened enrollment.

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.

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