Skip to main content

Common Dreams. Journalism funded by people, not corporations.

There has never been—and never will be—an advertisement on our site except for this one: without readers like you supporting our work, we wouldn't exist.

No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news and opinion 365 days a year that is freely available to all and funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

Our mission is clear. Our model is simple. If you can, please support our Fall Campaign today.

Support Our Work -- No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. Please support our Fall Campaign today.

Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a briefing on the administration's coronavirus response in the press briefing room of the White House on March 2, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

'Free Handout to Insurance Industry': Trump Administration Tells Insurers They Don't Have to Cover Covid-19 Tests for Workers

"According to the Trump administration, insurance company profits are more important than the lives of nursing home residents and workers."

Jake Johnson

The Trump administration issued policy guidance this week telling health insurance companies that they are not required by law to cover the Covid-19 tests employers may compel workers to undergo as a condition for returning to their jobs.

The announcement (pdf) Tuesday by the Departments of Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services alarmed healthcare advocates and lawmakers who warned the move gives profitable insurers a green light to push the costs of potentially expensive coronavirus screenings onto workers.

"Once again, the Trump administration is prioritizing corporate profits over people. I'm deeply concerned that this will disproportionately impact frontline workers."
—Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, a relief bill President Donald Trump signed into law in March, includes a provision (pdf) mandating that insurers and employer-provided plans cover "Covid-19 testing and related services without cost-sharing."

But the Trump administration says in its guidance that the law only requires insurers to cover "medically appropriate" coronavirus screenings, not tests "conducted to screen for general workplace health and safety (such as employee 'return to work' programs)."

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) blasted the Trump administration's interpretation of the law as a violation of congressional intent and "a free handout to the insurance industry."

"Once again, the Trump administration is prioritizing corporate profits over people," Pallone tweeted Wednesday. "I'm deeply concerned that this will disproportionately impact frontline workers."

In April, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission—a federal agency tasked with enforcing anti-discrimination laws—said employers are legally permitted to force employees to take Covid-19 viral tests to determine whether it is safe for them to return to the workplace.

New York, New Jersey, and other states currently require nursing homes to test employees to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in their facilities, which have been devastating hot-spots for the virus.

The New York Times reported earlier this month that some nursing homes say they can't afford to pay for the testing and have tried to bill insurance companies for the costs. But not all insurance companies have agreed to cover Covid-19 testing, leaving workers on the hook for the bill.

Shikilia Davis, a nursing home worker in Long Island, told the Times that she was sent home by her employer one day after she refused to hand over her insurance card before getting tested. Davis said she feared being hit with the costs because her insurer has declined to cover coronavirus screenings.

"This is a bill I do not want to get stuck with," said Davis. "I don't have money lying around."

As consumer advocacy group Public Citizen documented in a report last month, "the vast majority of the largest health insurers" in the U.S. have temporarily waived some costs for Covid-19 testing and treatment.

"But these fee waivers contain significant restrictions and most are set to expire long before the pandemic can reasonably be expected to end," the report noted.

"In some cases, the insurers' statements of testing-related benefits appear less sweeping than Congress required," the report continued. "Some of the insurers' statements only promise to cover testing-related costs through certain dates. Other statements suggest a more restrictive universe of covered tests than the legislation calls for. Meanwhile, most of do not clearly warn members that they might be subject to costs if they see out-of-network providers."

Public Citizen argued that the best way to ensure everyone is able to receive the Covid-19 testing and treatment they need is by implementing Medicare for All, which the group describes as "the most sensible way to untangle the thicket of our healthcare system, protect Americans from crushing costs, and create a healthier and more productive society."

"Under Medicare for All," the group said, "nobody would have to worry about falling through the cracks of a broken healthcare system and facing financial ruin."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Corporate Dems of US Senate Blamed as GOP Texas Governor Approves 'Rigged' Voting Maps

"We must protect our democracy with federal legislation immediately and defeat these cynical politicians at the ballot box."

Jessica Corbett ·


'An Act of Cowardice': 21 Israel-Based Groups Condemn Terror Label for Palestine NGOs

The organizations called the designation "a draconian measure that criminalizes critical human rights work."

Brett Wilkins ·


The Facebook Papers Spur More Calls to 'Break Them Up!'

Other critics are demanding a "full, independent, outside investigation" of the tech titan as whistleblower Frances Haugen testifies to the U.K. Parliament.

Jessica Corbett ·


'This Is an Emergency': Oxfam Says Rich Nations' $100 Billion Climate Pledge Not Good Enough

"Time is running out for rich nations to build trust and deliver on their unmet target."

Andrea Germanos ·


Progressives Vow to 'Push Very Hard' to Keep Agenda From Being Gutted Beyond Recognition

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar said House Democrats "are fighting to tackle the climate crisis, expand Medicare to cover dental, vision, and hearing, and guarantee family leave in America."

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo