Testing and Health Insurance

Does my health insurance cover testing?

Governor Abbott and the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) have asked health insurers to waive certain costs and requirements relating to testing and treatment for COVID-19.

The following health insurers and Health Maintenance Organizations are currently waiving cost-sharing (copayments, deductibles, and coinsurance) for medically necessary testing of COVID-19. Visit their websites for more information.

*️⃣  Waived copays for COVID-19 testing may only be for in-network care. If your doctor wants you to be tested, you can use your health plan directory to find hospitals and labs in your area that are part of your health plan’s network.

How do I know if these protections apply to my health plan?

These waived costs apply to you if you are covered by a state regulated insurance plan. If you have a state regulated health plan, your insurance ID card will display “TDI” for Texas Department of Insurance or “DOI” for Department of Insurance.

The Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS), the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS), The Texas A&M University System, and The University of Texas System have also been asked to provide the same benefits to employees and retirees covered by their PPO and HMO plans.

*️⃣  To learn more about health insurance, visit The Basics, Shopping Guide, and Using Your Insurance sections of our website.

What does Medicare cover?

  • Medicare covers lab tests for COVID-19 with no out-of-pocket costs.
  • Medicare covers all medically necessary hospitalizations.
  • Once a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, it will be covered.
  • Medicare Advantage Plans are allowed to waive cost-sharing for COVID-19 lab tests.
  • Check with your Medicare Advantage Plan about your coverage and costs.
  • Medicare covers telehealth and related services so you can connect with your doctor by phone or video.

To learn more about Medicare and COVID-19, visit their website. 

Can someone without insurance get tested?

You can call 211 to be directed to no-cost or low-cost providers in your area. Your health care provider may also contact a local public health authority to decide if testing at a public or private lab is appropriate.

If you don’t have a doctor or health insurance but are worried that you might have COVID-19, check your local health authority’s website to see if there is a hotline that you can call for help.

Can I go to a drive-thru testing site?

If you believe you should be tested for COVID-19, visit the Texas Health Trace website to use the COVID-19 self-checker and consult your doctor. For more information about drive-thru testing locations, visit the Department of State Health Services (DSHS)’s website.

How can I make sure my testing and treatment for COVID-19 symptoms were billed correctly?

Many health plans waived out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 testing and treatment. If you received a bill with unexpected out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19-related treatment or testing, call your provider to see if they made a mistake. You can also check with your health plan or group benefits coordinator at work to make sure these services were correctly coded.

An incorrectly coded service could cost you more than you should pay, and you may appeal it. Contact TDI’s Consumer HelpLine at 1-800-252-3439 or visit their website for information on filing a complaint.

I lost my job due to COVID-19. What are my health insurance options?

Losing your job makes you eligible to apply for insurance coverage in the Affordable Care Act marketplaceYou also have the right to continue your health coverage for a limited time after you lose your job.

  • Under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), workers and their families who lose their health benefits may choose to continue the coverage provided by their former employer.
  • You must tell your employer that you want COBRA coverage within 60 days of becoming eligible for it by losing your job.
  • COBRA continuation coverage is for a limited time and usually you must pay for it —sometimes at full cost— but it can help bridge the health insurance gap until you find other coverage.
  • You can keep COBRA coverage for 12 months.
  • To learn more about COBRA coverage, visit the U.S. Department of Labor’s website.

Certain types of retirement plans and health plans may provide you with more protections under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). To find out if these rights apply to your plan, you can visit the U.S. Department of Labor’s website, the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) website, or call 1-866-444-EBSA (3272).

You may also want to price and consider other health insurance options, such as a spouse’s plan, Medicaid, or the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Additionally, Texas law requires some group health plans to continue your coverage longer. Visit TDI’s website for more information, or contact them at 1-800-252-3439.

Healthcare Options

I need to see a doctor but I don’t want to go into the office. What are my options?

Most health plans offer telehealth options such as nurse line or virtual visits with no copay. Visit your insurer’s website to learn more about your options.

Initially, TDI filed an emergency rule requiring insurers to pay the same amount for telemedicine services as they do for in-person services, including for covered mental health services. The rule applies to in-network services for state-regulated health plans. When the rule expired in September, Governor Abbott announced an agreement with health insurers to continue telehealth payment parity until the end of 2020. As a result, insurers must still pay the same amount for telemedicine services that they do for in-person services. 

I need medications, but I don’t want to go into the pharmacy. What are my options?

Some health plans allow patients to get a 90-day supply of medication, to limit the number of trips you must make. Ask your doctor and health plan if this is an option for you. Additionally, some pharmacies and health plans have programs that let you get your medications by mail. 

What can I do if my elective procedure/appointment is postponed due to COVID-19?

TDI is encouraging health insurers, HMOs, and utilization review agents to extend certain prior authorizations and referrals to help patients and health-care providers reschedule elective procedures without additional delays.

  • Your health plan may be automatically extending prior authorizations for elective surgeries and procedures that were previously scheduled.
  • Referrals may be extended for specialists, therapy, counseling services, and other medically necessary services that may have been disrupted.
  • TDI has asked health plans that extend your prior authorizations or referrals to provide you with written notice of the updated authorizations.
  • Check with your health plan or plan administrator to find out if this applies to a procedure or service that you need rescheduled.

To learn more, visit TDI’s website.

What mental health resources are available for those dealing with stress during the pandemic?

The COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for everyone. Many people are dealing with fear, anxiety, isolation, and loneliness. It is important to take care of your mental health. If you need help, please reach out. There are many free options available, including: 

  • Texas Health and Human Services (HHS) 24/7 toll-free COVID Mental Health Support Line: 833-986-1919 
  • National Disaster Distress Hotline: 1-800-985-5990 (press 2 for Spanish) 
  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for English, 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish, or the Lifeline Crisis Chat
  • HHS Suicide Crisis Line: 2-1-1, option 8 and Crisis Text Line  
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Coping with Stress webpage 

You may also want to check with your health plan to find out what options are available to you. Many health plans offer special hotlines and cover telemedicine appointments for mental health care. 

COVID-19 Vaccine

When can I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Starting March 29, every Texan 16 or older is eligible to receive a COVID vaccine. Check DSHS’s COVID-19 website for more information.

Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine for free?

Federal health officials have stated that the vaccine itself is free for all consumers. You may have to pay your vaccine provider for giving you the shot. If you’re insured, your health insurance should reimburse you for this cost. If you’re uninsured, you can be reimbursed by Health Resources and Service Administration’s Provider Relief Fund.

If I’m eligible for the vaccine now, where do I get it?

The state has set up vaccine hub locations across the state to provide more vaccines quickly and easily. The Texas COVID-19 vaccine supply is limited (with more doses arriving every week) and it will take time to vaccinate everyone.

Check the DSHS COVID-19 Vaccination Hub Providers page for a list of current vaccine hub locations and their contact information. You can also use the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM)’s COVID-19 Vaccine Availability map to see if your nearest vaccine hub has doses available. You may also call 833-832-7067 for help finding a vaccine provider.

*️⃣  Please note: Do not show up at a clinic or hospital looking for a vaccine. First check their website for vaccine availability.

Auto Insurance Premiums

Due to COVID-19 some auto insurers have chosen to reduce, return, or discount premiums for consumers. The following personal auto insurance companies have announced they are reducing, returning, or discounting premiums during the pandemic. This list will be updated, but may be incomplete.
*️⃣  Other insurance companies may be deferring payment, waiving late fees, or helping in other ways. You should contact your insurance company to learn more about your premium payment due to COVID-19.

Other Helpful Resources

Monitor the latest news from DSHS.

Monitor the latest news from the CDC.

Feeling sick? Use the CDC’s COVID-19 Self Checker Tool before visiting a doctor or hospital.

Monitor the latest insurance industry updates from TDI.

Get information on disaster unemployment assistance from the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC).

Do you have a small business? Check out our resources page for business owners.

Texans who believe they’ve encountered price gouging should call 800-621-0508 or file a complaint online.

Beware of coronavirus scams! Learn how to avoid these scams on TDI’s website.