The COVID-19 epidemic has become a full-blown public health emergency in the U.S. Confirmed cases of the potentially deadly disease increased significantly over the weekend, and there are now over 800 cases (and counting) of COVID-19 in more than 30 states, and at least 28 people have died from it.
To contain the rapidly spreading SARS-CoV-2 virus -- which is the virus that causes COVID-19 -- health authorities recommend that those with symptoms of COVID-19 immediately contact their healthcare providers and get tested for the disease.
The testing and treatment for COVID-19 aren't free, but in a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence at the White House on March 10, insurance company executives agreed that private health insurers will waive COVID-19 test copayments and cover the treatment costs for the disease. Private health insurers will also cover the costs of virtual healthcare services.
Who will benefit from this?
Those with private insurance will not bear the financial costs of getting tested (or receiving treatment) for COVID-19, which is good news for the public. However, healthcare companies also stand to profit from this. In particular, telehealth service providers such as Teladoc Health (NYSE:TDOC) may be some of the biggest beneficiaries.
Teladoc allows doctors and other healthcare workers to provide consultations to patients via teleconferences on electronic devices such as smartphones and tablets. Demand for these services may increase as the COVID-19 epidemic continues to get worse.
While the S&P 500 is down by 10.8% year to date, shares of Teladoc are up by 74.6% since the year started, which shows that investors expect the company to thrive in the current environment.