CONSUMER CATCH-UP: Coronavirus costs estimated at $251 billion or more, FTC warns more companies with false coronavirus claims, and the IRS's stimulus payment tracker expected to be live on Friday

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Covered California estimates coronavirus costs at up to $251 billion

The first national projection of healthcare costs due to the novel coronavirus pandemic has been released -- and the price tag for testing, treatment, and care is estimated between $34 billion and $251 billion for the first year alone.

Covered California's analysis found that premiums in the individual and employer markets for 2021 -- which will be set this May -- could increase 40 percent or more in order to cover COVID-19 costs.

Federal intervention is necessary to control these costs, according to Covered California. It suggests enhanced federal financial assistance provided in the individual market, establishing a temporary program to limit coronavirus-related costs for health insurers, self-insured employers and those they cover, and creating a national special-enrollment period on the individual market.

Covered California's analysis comes just days after it announced a special-enrollment period for uninsured individuals. Now until June 30, anyone eligible can enroll in health care coverage with Covered California.

FTC issues more warnings to companies making false coronavirus claims

The Federal Trade Commission continues to issue warnings to companies claiming to make products that can treat or cure the coronavirus.

Tuesday, the FTC issued ten more warning letters to companies in the United States and abroad, ordering them to "cease making unsubstantiated claims that their products can treat or prevent coronavirus disease."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has already stated that there are currently no products that are scientifically proven effective against the virus. Still, that hasn't stopped companies from marketing products like nutritional supplement "anti-virus kits," "sonic silicone face brushes," and intravenous "therapies" with high doses of Vitamin C as virus treatments and preventions.

"It's shameful to take advantage of people by claiming that a product prevents, treats, or cures COVID-19," said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "We're seeing these false claims for all sorts of products, but anyone who makes them simply has no proof and is likely just after your money."

The FTC's letters note that the Commission may seek federal court injunctions or customer refunds if the companies do not comply.

Consumers with concerns about products claiming to treat the coronavirus are encouraged to contact the FTC's Consumer Response Center at 877-382-4357.

IRS's "Get My Payment" tool expected to go live on Friday

The IRS's latest tool for Americans to track their economic impact payments is expected to be live on Friday.

The "Get My Payment" tool is expected to launch on April 17, and will allow people to check the status of their stimulus payments, including the date it is expected to be sent out. Though most Americans do not need to do anything in order to receive a stimulus payment, those who need to change addresses or provide direct deposit information will be able to do so through the Get My Payment tracker. This would greatly speed up the time in which someone can receive their payment; paper checks are estimated to take up to 20 weeks to process, while direct deposits are already being sent out this week.

Previously, the IRS released a form for those who usually don't file taxes to submit their information. The IRS will be using 2018 and 2019 tax returns to determine the amount and method of the payment to most Americans, but those who don't make enough to file regular tax returns were concerned about being left out in the cold. The "non-filers" form allows Americans to submit very basic tax information in order to properly receive the amount they are due.



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