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solving covid

How U.S. insurance companies are blocking COVID-19 mutation surveillance

The United States is not at the top of its game when it comes to coronavirus sequencing, which makes tracking COVID-19 mutations a challenge, Bloomberg reports. That's a real concern as the Delta variant and other potentially concerning variants spread around the U.S. and the world.

Part of the reason the U.S. lags behind other countries when it comes to mutation surveillance is because sequencing positive tests isn't mandatory, Jade Fulce, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told Bloomberg. Therefore, the agency doesn't receive sufficient data from specific states or jurisdictions, forcing scientists to rely on "geographically broad regions," instead. 

Per Bloomberg, health insurers may need to enter the fray to "achieve truly widespread adoption" of sequencing. Right now, they don't pay for it because even in the case that a mutated form of the coronavirus is discovered in a patient (federal regulations prevent labs from telling doctors what variant their patients have unless they're participating in a study, so this is rare), mutations don't alter treatment plans. "It's not approved as a medical health activity," James Crawford, senior vice president of laboratory services at the New York-based health-care provider Northwell Health, told Bloomberg. "We have not bridged that gap."

If sequencing does increase, though, and researchers begin to identify interventions specific to mutated forms of the virus, insurance companies would have reason to cover the process, Bloomberg reports. Read more at Bloomberg.