RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – When you get tested for COVID or get a vaccine for the disease – you don’t pay anything.

A federal mandate makes sure of that.

For much of the pandemic, health insurance companies have also waived your share of the cost if you end up hospitalized with COVID-19.

But that is voluntary. There is no mandate.

A newly released national survey by Peterson-KFF has found by the end of August, 72 percent of the largest health insurers in each state will no longer waive the patient’s share of the cost.

Krutika Amin was part of the research team.

“I guess the question is whether cost-sharing should be waived for people who are getting hospitalized for COVID which are largely avoidable over treatment for other people with other conditions,” said Amin.

Rebecca Cerese, a health care advocate with the North Carolina Justice Center said people may not know the waivers were in place at some point or now that they’ve expired.

“Medical debt is still like the number one reason for bankruptcies and most of those folks have insurance. This is a giant problem with our health care system and I think it needs to be addressed,” Cerese said.

“One of the reasons why insurance might be expiring these cost-sharing waivers is to incentivize patients to get vaccinated so these largely avoidable hospitalizations don’t happen,” said Amin.

The study found North Carolina’s two biggest health insurers, Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC and United Healthcare, have already stopped.

Blue Cross Blue Shield responded to CBS 17 by saying:

  • Our cost-share waivers were first announced in April 2020, before vaccines were available
  • We kept the cost-share waiver and other measures in place several months longer than many other health plans
  • COVID-related treatment are covered according to each individual’s health plan, and members may be responsible for a portion of their treatment costs to include copayments, coinsurance and deductible amounts
  • We’ve kept our members informed through our COVID resources website.

Cerese said the issue further exposes a much bigger problem.

“If this pandemic has shown us anything is that we really all of us need to be protected because if any of us are not that can actually hurt all of us,” she said.