Coronavirus testing: More than 22 million Californians now eligible for free medically necessary COVID-19 screenings

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Under the direction of Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday, the Department of Managed Health Care directed all commercial and Medi-Cal health plans regulated by the department to immediately reduce the cost-sharing to zero for all medically necessary screening and testing for COVID-19.

This includes waiving the cost-sharing for the emergency room, urgent care or provider office visits when the purpose of the visit is novel coronavirus related.

"This action will ensure that Californians who need a test will receive one at no cost," said Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency. "This doesn't mean every Californians should be seeking a test. If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and may have had contact with a person with COVID-19 or recently traveled to countries with apparent community spread, call your health care provider or local public health department first before seeking medical care."

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Authorities say the need for COVID-19 testing is based on medical necessity and clinical determination is made on a case-by-case basis from medical professionals.

"Californians shouldn't have to fear a big medical bill just because they took a test for COVID-19," said Governor Newsom. "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."

The California Department of Insurance issued similar direction proving cost-free medically necessary testing for an additional two-million Californians. The recent announcements mean a total of 24-million more Californians have the ability to be screened and tested for COVID-19 if their health care provider deems it medically necessary.

These orders from the Department of Managed Health Care and the Department of Insurance do not apply to individuals in self-insured health coverage products, officials say.

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Authorities also made support available for employers and workers impacted by COVID-19 on Thursday. The California Employee Development Department announced that individuals who are unable to work due to having or being exposed to novel coronavirus (certified by a medical professional) can file a Disability Insurance Claim.

Disability Insurance provides short-term benefit payments to eligible workers who have full or partial loss wages due to a non-work-related illness, injury, or pregnancy.

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Californians who are unable to work because they are caring for an ill or quarantined family member with COVID-19 (Certified by a medical professional) can file a Paid Family Leave claim.
The Paid Famly Leave provides up to six weeks of benefit payments to eligible workers who have a full or partial loss of wages because they need time off work to care for a seriously ill family member or to bond with a new child.

Employers experiencing a slowdown in their business or services as a result of the novel coronavirus impact on the economy may apply for the UI Work Sharing Program. This program allows employers to seek an alternative to layoffs - retaining their trained employees by reducing their hours and wages that can be partially offset with UI benefits.

Gavin Newsom declared California in the State of Emergency on Wednesday to make additional resources available, formalize emergency action plans across multiple state agencies and departments and to help the state better prepare for a broader spread of COVID-19.

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