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Coronavirus update: Aetna waiving some co-pays; Congress to the rescue

But states still struggle to secure enough tests

Photo (c) FilippoBacci - Getty Images
Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University: (Previous numbers in parentheses)

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 55,568 (46,805)

Total U.S. deaths: 809 (593)

Total global cases: 441,187 (398,407)

Total global deaths:  19,784 (17,454)

CVS-Aetna to waive co-pays for coronavirus hospitalizations

CVS Health says it will waive cost-sharing and co-pays for Aetna’s commercial policyholders who are admitted to a hospital for treatment related to the coronavirus (COVID-19). The company said the move is part of its effort to reduce or eliminate consumers’ out-of-pocket expenses during the pandemic.

Previously, CVS Health cut cost-sharing for diagnostic testing and telemedicine sessions. The company also says it has taken steps to expand patient access to medications.

“The additional steps we’re announcing today are consistent with our commitment to delivering timely and seamless access to care as we navigate the spread of COVID-19,” said Karen Lynch, president, Aetna Business Unit and executive vice president at CVS Health. “We are doing everything we can to make sure our members have simple and affordable access to the treatment they need as we face the pandemic together.”

In states like New York and Washington with the strongest prevalence of COVID-19 cases, hospitals no longer need advance approval from Aetna for members requiring hospitalization for the virus. 

Aid could be on the way

Congress is poised to provide up to $2 trillion in aid to Americans and to businesses that have been slammed by the coronavirus. Republicans and Democrats in the Senate agreed on its provisions early this morning and could pass it later today. 

The House is not expected to give final approval until later in the week, though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she will support the measure agreed to by both parties in the Senate.

Testing backlog

From the beginning of the outbreak of the coronavirus in the U.S., testing has been an issue. The Wall Street Journal reports that it still is.

The Journal reports that local officials around the country are having to improvise to track the number of infected people in their jurisdictions. They’ve had to look outside the United States for test supplies and to get lab results.

New York’s Mount Sinai Health system is reportedly conducting 1,000 tests a day, but doctors there say it isn’t enough. Dr. Deborah Birx, the response coordinator for the White House’s coronavirus task force, reports that 220,000 tests have been conducted nationwide in the past eight days.

Hertz providing free transportation for NYC health care workers

Hertz is providing free rental cars to health care workers in New York City who are coping with the worst of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. New York continues to lead the nation in both the number of cases and deaths.

Beginning today, health care workers in the city can pick up a rental and drive it through the end of April at no charge. 

"With New York City having the highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country, healthcare workers are dealing with extremely challenging circumstances," said Kathryn Marinello, Hertz’s CEO. "It's vital that healthcare workers have safe and reliable transportation during this time, and we are eager to help.”

Marinello says Hertz has the capacity to make the offer because of the dramatic drop in travel.  To immediately have an impact, Hertz is working with Mount Sinai Health System to make vehicles available to its employees. It’s also supplying Mount Sinai with free cargo van rentals to transport ventilators and other medical supplies to support the crisis.

Peak prediction

CNN is reporting that an epidemiologist working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has predicted a peak of U.S. deaths from the coronavirus in three weeks. Ira Longini, professor at the Center for Statistics and Quantitative Infectious Diseases at the University of Florida,, works with the CDC on COVID-19 modeling.

Spain now the deadliest country

In recent weeks China has seen the number of new coronavirus cases decline, along with deaths from the disease. According to data collected by Johns Hopkins University, Spain passed China as the nation with the most coronavirus deaths today.

FDA supporting possible treatment

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is advancing what could turn out to be a treatment for COVID-19. The agency reports that it is facilitating access to convalescent plasma, the antibody-rich blood products from blood donated by people who have had the virus and recovered from it.

The FDA says plasma treatment might shorten the length, or lessen the severity, of the illness. The agency said it will be using multiple pathways to support these efforts. 

Waffle House temporarily closes restaurants in hard-hit areas 

Waffle House, a restaurant chain known for being open no matter the circumstances, says it has closed 418 of its locations. Nearly 1,600 of its restaurants remain open.

The restaurant announced the closings on its Facebook page, along with a map showing the locations that are open and those that have been temporarily closed. The map shows the closed restaurants are in areas that have reported large numbers of confirmed cases.

Around the nation

  • Oklahoma: Gov. Kevin Stitt has issued an order closing all non-essential businesses and directed all older and medically vulnerable people to remain in their homes until at least April 30. The state has also temporarily removed restrictions on alcohol deliveries.

  • Georgia: Attorney General Chris Carr is stepping up the fight to rid the marketplace of price gougers and scammers by partnering with members of the Georgia and national business communities – including Amazon, eBay, and Walmart. Amazon has already suspended thousands of price-gougers from its platform.

  • South Carolina: Composite Resources and its subsidiary, Cat Resources, produce carbon fiber components used in the aerospace and defense industries. In 24 hours, it shifted production to cotton-poly masks for health care workers. “In a matter of 24 hours, we've sold in excess 2,000 masks," a company executive said.

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