Coronavirus Screenings, Tests and Treatment

Safety tips, Highmark coverage, and other considerations.

Stay Connected

Help your employees take advantage of all their health plan has to offer, including our member portal, online tools, and member discounts.

Home  /  Coronavirus Screenings, Tests and Treatment
 

As of May 20, 2020

You want to do what’s best for your team. We understand that and we can help.

Opening your workplace doors again has its challenges — what steps can you take to combat Coronavirus concerns? How do you keep everyone safe? Where do you even start? And the one big question that seems to be on everyone’s mind: Should you screen or test your employees before they come back? 

Coronavirus tests have been suggested by some public sources as a must-have step in returning back to the workplace.

However, based on expert guidance from the CDC, OSHA, and the clinical team at Allegheny Health Network, as well as the current test options available — Highmark is not currently covering widespread Coronavirus tests as part of a back-to-the-workplace strategy. If government regulations change, our coverage may change, too. We will keep you informed if that’s the case.

On the other hand, we do believe that screenings can be a useful tool to help prevent sick employees from coming to work.

Keeping everyone safe.

There are many precautions you can take and protocols you can put into place to help improve workplace safety. 

To help keep your employees and customers safe and healthy, consider these steps: 

  1. Educate your team on the CDC’s guidelines and encourage everyone to follow best practices — washing hands with soap, practicing social distancing, and wearing a mask. 
  2. Provide tools to help. Make personal protective equipment available — like masks or gloves — install hand sanitizer stations, or implement handwashing breaks. 
  3. Review your sick leave policy to determine if any changes should be made. Let your employees know that what’s safest for everyone is that they stay home when they’re not feeling well. If necessary, educate employees on your paid time off or sick policy to make people feel more comfortable taking time off when sick.
  4. Make changes to your physical workspace to allow for social distancing, if you can. Space out employees’ work stations, hold virtual meetings when more than a handful of people are needed, and limit the number of people in confined areas — like conference, breakrooms, cafeterias, etc. 
  5. If you can, stagger employees’ arrival and departure times. This will help reduce the number of people who gather in lobbies, elevator banks, and other public spaces. 
  6. Clean. Clean. And clean some more. Make sure you thoroughly clean and disinfect your workplace, especially those frequently touched areas, kitchenette sinks, microwaves, refrigerator handles, etc. Consider having disinfectant wipes available for employees to wipe down their workspaces and meeting rooms. 

But — everyone keeps mentioning screenings and tests.

As we said, based on expert guidance from the CDC, OSHA, and the clinical team at Allegheny Health Network, as well as the current test options available — we aren’t currently covering widespread testing. And, we aren’t using it as a back to the workplace strategy ourselves. 

That said, we want to make sure you have information on hand to make your own decision. Let’s break down the testing options. 

Testing for infection, commonly called antigen or diagnostic testing

This test is used to diagnose patients suspected of having Coronavirus and requires a quick swab of the nose. 

Pros: 

Very sensitive and specific to Coronavirus. Standardized testing available, with many vendors and labs receiving FDA emergency use authorization. 

Cons:

  • If the person has already recovered from Coronavirus and will likely not infect others, the test could show a false positive — an incorrect result that shows the virus is present. 
  • If the person is a symptomatic — not showing any symptoms — the test may show a false negative — an incorrect result that shows the virus is not present. 
  • In some places, there are still shortages of testing supplies and test kits, and often times long wait times for results. It’s also important that tests are available for people when prescribed by a medical professional. 
  • The test results are “outdated” as soon as they’re received. For instance, if an employee tests negative one day, they could hypothetically contract the virus the very next day.

Testing for antibodies, also known as serologic tests 

This test identifies a prior Coronavirus infection by detecting antibodies in the blood. It is done through a blood draw or a quick finger prick to obtain the blood sample. 

Pros: 

  • It can be given to anyone, even those without Coronavirus symptoms. 
  • Tests will likely be available in large quantities in the future and results can be turned around quickly. 

Cons: 

  • Current tests don’t assess if the antibodies presence provides actual immunity to Coronavirus. A positive test could give people a false sense of security, when in reality, they could still contract the virus. 
  • There can be a gap in time between when a person is tested and when symptoms develop because people don’t typically develop antibodies until 8-14 days after they start feeling symptoms. 
  • Many of these tests are not very specific. The antibody test could be cross-reactive with other viruses, like the common cold, and show a false positive result — an incorrect result that shows the virus is present. 
  • Testing is not standardized and the majority of available tests have not undergone FDA review and testing. But, they have received emergency use authorization. 

As you can see, with so many shortcomings, testing isn’t an effective “back-to-the-workplace” strategy. Instead, consider the precautions we outlined above to keep your workplace safe and your employees healthy. 

Have questions about what’s covered?

At this time, Highmark doesn’t cover widespread employee tests and screenings as part of an employer back-to-the-workplace strategy. However, if medically necessary, COVID-19 testing for an employee who is a Highmark member is covered. 

Still thinking about those screenings and tests? 

Then this chart may help. While Highmark isn’t using tests as part of our own back to the workplace strategy, you may still be interested or live in a state that is requiring them. 

Highmark will continue to monitor the situation closely. If expert guidance, clinical studies, and testing innovations change, our coverage may change, too. As always, we’ll keep you looped in.

 

Privacy Information for Self-Funded Groups

There have been no change in federal requirements regarding the proper handling of protected health information (PHI). We are monitoring communications from the Department of Health and Human Services on this subject and will adjust our current practices as needed if deviations from current requirements are authorized. 

Can Highmark share the names of covered members who have been tested for COVID-19?

Yes. Highmark can provide group health plan administrators with the names of their members who have been tested, presuming we have received claims for the tests and can identify them. You will be invoiced for the claims and have the right to know the identities of individuals for whom you are paying claims in order to properly administer their plans. 

Can Highmark share COVID-19 test results?

No. Highmark cannot provide any test results, positive or negative. If we receive corresponding claims for any COVID-19 hospitalizations or other treatments we cannot provide anything more than what you would receive in the course of your usual invoicing process.

 

Treatment

Through September 30, 2020, Highmark is waiving member cost-share for in-network, inpatient hospital care for COVID-19 for fully-insured groups. This includes any deductibles, co-insurance and co-pays. 

Self-funded groups have until May 27, 2020 to elect to opt in to one of the cost-share waiver options.

This website is accurate as of the date referenced but may change pursuant to regulatory mandates, updated guidance, or in response to changing business needs. The information in this document is based on information published in official guidance, by associations and organizations, or discussed in articles on the subject. Information compiled in this document is presented for your consideration only as each workplace and locality is different. Highmark makes no representation or warranty related to the information compiled in this document. The information in this document is not intended to situate Highmark as a provider of medical services or dictate the diagnosis, care or treatment.