The changes we’ve all faced in the past few weeks have been really stressful. It’s important to me that we keep you all on top of what we are doing at Blue Cross to make sure the healthcare system, now so vital to our continued good health outcomes here in Louisiana, is strong and has the resources it needs.
Even before COVID-19, Blue Cross was paying for around $300 million a month in healthcare services for our members here in Louisiana. And with the current emergency around COVID-19, we could do even more. Here’s a few things that we have implemented to make it easier to protect your health.
Take your healthcare online
First, I want to strongly encourage you to use our telehealth service called BlueCare. This gives you an opportunity to have an online doctor visit from wherever you happen to be, as long as you have a smartphone, tablet or computer and an internet connection. We are now waiving all cost shares for using BlueCare as your primary care first line of defense. That means you can have online visits 24/7 for $0.
Let’s face it, if you are worried about getting infected by a virus, you might feel safer at home than at a doctor’s office. You can download the BlueCare app on your Android or Apple phone, or access it directly at BlueCareLA.com. I’ve used it myself, and it is very handy. The online docs can even call in a prescription for you. All without leaving the house.
Wait times for BlueCare can be long right now, as more people than ever access the service, so also check to see if your primary care physician or local health system has a telemedicine service. You may have to pay cost shares for non-BlueCare services.
If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, contact your regular healthcare provider, who can work with you to determine if you need to be tested. If you don’t have a regular healthcare provider, please call 211 to reach the Louisiana statewide information network or visit www.ldh.la.gov/coronavirus and click LA211 to see the most frequently asked questions..
Early prescription refills
Speaking of prescriptions, under normal circumstances you usually can’t refill a prescription for maintenance drugs – one you get over and over for an ongoing condition – until you near the end of your current supply. However, Blue Cross has lifted time restrictions on your prescription refills. So, no more worrying if it’s day 23 of 30, just go ahead and fill it when it’s good for you. It’s possible all pharmacies haven’t gotten the word yet, so we created a flier you can show your pharmacist as you need to. The link for it is here. You can also show your pharmacist our webpage on what we’re doing for our members, www.bcbsla.com/covid19.
Note that you can still only get 12 refills in a year for each monthly prescription you take.
Keep in the know with reliable sources
We’ve created a website to update our members on the latest coverage information and the programs and services we’re making available. We are updating this page several times a day right now, so you see the latest from us there. You have access to this COVID-19 information website just like I do at www.bcbsla.com/COVID19. Please check it often! You can find a really good overview of the whole situation at the CDC’s website and Louisiana-specific information at the state’s Dept. of Health’s website.
Help for stress, worry and anxiety
I have no doubt that many of you, just like me, are either at a higher risk of getting very sick from this virus or caring for people who are at higher risk because they are elderly or have immune-compromising health conditions. And, like me, I’m betting that many of you are working from home or finding your hours scaled back at work. This can lead to lots of worry, stress and anxiety, and we’ve been thinking about that as well.
Blue Cross works with New Directions as our counseling and behavioral health service for many of our members. New Directions has opened a crisis line for anyone who may need to discuss behavioral health issues related to COVID-19 – that includes people who are not our members. Just call 1-833-848-1764 and let them hear your fears and anxieties. These guys are pros and they are here for you. No one should have to live with all that anxiety alone. Let them help. They’ve also put together a few basic tips to help everyone.
We are in this for the long-term
Someone asked me very recently what Blue Cross would do in the face of a real disaster that cut off a sizable portion of our incoming revenue. How would we keep the healthcare system going, since the Louisiana healthcare system is highly dependent on the money Blue Cross puts into circulation on your behalf?
That’s an excellent question, and I want to assure you today that your Blue Cross plan has a very strong rainy day fund that we have cultivated and protected for years for just such an occasion. This will enable us to keep paying your claims so you can focus on COVID-19 and your family, instead of worrying about who will pay for your treatments and medications.
Healthcare.gov is open
Also worth remembering: Anyone who loses employer-based healthcare is automatically eligible to shop on healthcare.gov for 60 days after their employer coverage ends. You can use whatever your income is on the day you shop to determine how much federal help you would get. If your income is suddenly $0 because of job loss, use that number. Also remember that, unlike most of the South, Louisiana has expanded Medicaid to any household with incomes below 138% of the Federal Poverty Level. If things slow down at work and your insurance there is threatened, DO NOT PANIC. You have other options, and you can begin to check them out by looking at healthcare.gov or calling us at 1-800-821-2758 where we have licensed agents waiting for your call. You will have options.
Finally, I want to say a Straight Talk word about the whole notion of “flattening the curve.”
It’s an odd-sounding phrase. But, it is vitally important to all of us right now, in a huge way.
First of all, I want to say a big “Thank You” to everyone who is sacrificing their personal freedom right now for the good of us all. I would imagine it is very tough to be a 25-year-old, perhaps at minimal risk of a serious COVID-19 illness, yet still playing by all these unusual rules like social distancing (keeping six feet or more from others), washing your hands all the time, not being able to go to your favorite hangout or health club. It’s a lot to sacrifice, and as an older person who is at risk from this virus, I just want to say a big “THANK YOU” to everyone who is playing ball.
Why is that so important? I struggled for a good analogy for a while, but then I saw Senator Bill Cassidy on Twitter use the PERFECT one. I hope he won’t mind if I borrow it.
If it rains 8 inches over 2 hours it overwhelms a city’s drainage system, but if it rains 8 inches over 5 days the system can handle it better. It’s the same when it comes to our hospitals with COVID-19 cases. We must slow the spread and #flattenthecurve.https://t.co/FUAMRHFHIt
— Bill Cassidy, M.D. (@BillCassidy) March 16, 2020
We’ve all seen what happens around here when it rains. Louisiana gets around 100 inches of rain a year. IF we get even, say, 12 inches of rain, and it all happens on the same day, it’s really bad. Streets flood, rivers and bayous overflow, properties flood, all bad. BUT if that same 12 inches of rain happens over a week’s time, where the drainage system has a chance to push the water out at a reasonable rate, nothing bad happens. But too much, too soon, can be devastating.
COVID-19 can be like a flood, but on our hospitals, ICU beds and respirator capacity. If too many at-risk people, in too short a time, get cases of COVID-19 that threaten their lives, the healthcare system becomes overwhelmed, and some people can’t be treated. We don’t have to speculate about this; this is exactly what is happening right now in Northern Italy. They had too many cases too quickly, and now life-or-death decisions are being made about who gets treatment and who doesn’t. And there is simply not enough healthcare capacity to go around. Not enough doctors, nurses, ICU beds or life-giving respirator machines.
Keep the faith
IF we play ball and work hard to limit our exposure we slow down how fast people get this disease and we spread out the cases over a longer period of time. This gives our healthcare system enough time to recover and keep up. It’s 12 inches of rain over a month, instead of 12 inches all on the same day. Every drop of freedom you are sacrificing right now is important to stopping the flood.
Keep in mind, the longer we hold off a flood of cases, the closer we get to drug treatments and vaccines for COVID-19. I have great faith in the technological capabilities of our nation, and I know if we can offer a little time, good things will happen to make this bug a non-threat. We just need to keep playing ball.
WHEW! That’s an awful lot of material for one day, but you and I both know there is an awful lot going on right now. I have a huge amount of faith in each and every one of you, and I’m looking forward to yelling “WHO DAT” and “GEAUX TIGERS” again when this is all over. For now, Straight Talk is, we need to stay hunkered down.
Thank you Mike for this great information. Thank you BCBSLA for the caring work that all of you are doing.