Court strikes down health insurers obligation to pay for Covid-19 tests

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An appeals court in Recife, northeastern Brazil, struck down an injunction that forced health insurance companies to pay for serological Covid-19 tests. The decision followed the recommendation of the National Supplemental Health Agency (ANS) and reversed a June regulation compelling insurers to provide tests.

“ANS once again proved that it acts on the behalf of companies rather than people. If this test is not that important for controlling the pandemic, then why did Anvisa [the National Sanitary Surveillance Agency] greenlight it in Brazil — including by pharmacies? It is an absurd decision,” said Renâ Patriota, president of an association of health insurance users.

Despite having asked insurers not to be forced to pay for these tests, the ANS said it is mulling over making it mandatory — which makes its decision to take the matter to court all the more puzzling. “Access to testing is the second-biggest complaint by consumers. Instead of tackling these issues, regulators are increasing patient’s difficulties,” lawyer Ana Carolina Navarrete told newspaper O Globo.

Data journalist Aline Gatto Boueri showed that, four months since the arrival of the coronavirus to Brazil, the country is still struggling to test its population and properly monitor the pandemic. Official data shows an exceptionally high proportion of tests coming back positive: 38 percent. That is a testament to how deficient the country has been in monitoring the spread of the virus.

When testing is restricted to severe cases, it also impacts the reliability of mathematical models to project the progress of the pandemic in the country.