Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update Center
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after coughing or sneezing
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, or cough or sneeze into your elbow or shoulder, not your hands
- Stay home if sick, and stay home for at least 24 hours after the last signs of fever
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- Stay home and away from others in your household
- Call before visiting your doctor
- Wear a face mask whenever possible
- Clean surfaces that are touched often as much as possible. Examples include counter tops, doorknobs, telephones, toys, bathroom fixtures and keyboards
- Cover your mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Throw tissues away in a lined trash can. Immediately wash your hands afterwards
- Clean your hands often
- Monitor your symptoms
Download our "What should I do next" guide here
Because testing kits are in short supply and resources to handle a huge volume of coronavirus tests are not available, please read this information to help determine if you need to be tested. Looking for information on testing sites in your area? Click on link below to access health departments links in all 50 states, 8 US territories and freely associated states, and the District of Columbia. When Should I Get Tested?
Because testing kits are in short supply and resources to handle a huge volume of coronavirus tests are not available, please read this information to help determine if you need to be tested.
Looking for information on testing sites in your area? Click on link below to access health departments links in all 50 states, 8 US territories and freely associated states, and the District of Columbia.
When Should I Get Tested?
You and your families are our top priority. New Directions' emotional support line is available 24/7 to assist you during this time of stress and uncertainty. Call 833-848-1764 to speak to a licensed therapist. Looking for additional important resources and helpful information? Click on link below to access tips for coping with the COVID-19 outbreak and more.
You and your families are our top priority. New Directions' emotional support line is available 24/7 to assist you during this time of stress and uncertainty. Call 833-848-1764 to speak to a licensed therapist.
Looking for additional important resources and helpful information? Click on link below to access tips for coping with the COVID-19 outbreak and more.
Frequently Asked Questions
Claims and Benefits
As a result of the Families First Act, as amended by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, both in-network and out-of-network diagnostic tests for COVID-19 and the related in-person or telehealth visit, emergency room visit, or urgent care visit are covered at 100% during the declared public national emergency. Members are not required to pay for these services.
Yes. In these challenging times, we want you to know we are here to help you. We are offering a 2-month grace period on premiums that are due during March and April 2020. This grace period allows you to pay up to 60 days past your due date and still remain covered. Hopefully this extra time to pay your premium provides some relief.
Your Blue Advantage or BlueRx plan is there for you with well established guidelines for members struggling to pay their premiums. Your plan premium is due in our office by the first day of the month. If we have not received your premium by the 10th, we will send you a notice telling you that your plan membership will end if we do not receive your premium payment within 180 days. If you are having trouble paying your premium on time, please contact Member Services to see if we can direct you to programs that will help with your plan premium. If we end your membership because you did not pay your premiums, you will still have health coverage under Original Medicare.
Contact Blue Advantage Member Services at 1-888-234-8266 (TTY 711), calls to this number are free. 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven (7) days a week. Contact BlueRx Member Services at 1-800-327-3998 (AL)/1-888-311-7508 (TN), calls to this number are free. 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven (7) days a week.
Yes. If medically necessary, multiple diagnostic tests for COVID-19 will be covered.
Yes. As required by the Families First Act/CARES Act, COVID-19 at-home tests must be covered at 100% with no member cost sharing if that test has been approved by the FDA, received an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) or whose manufacturer has the intent to apply for an EUA, AND if the purpose of the test is for diagnosis and/or treatment of COVID-19 and NOT for surveillance purposes (such as testing required by an employer, institution or school.
Yes, antibody tests for COVID-19 testing are covered at 100% with no member cost sharing as required by the Families First Act/CARES Act; however, antibody testing does NOT indicate if an individual has an active COVID-19 infection. Only a nasal swab test can identify the actual virus and identify a COVID-19 infection. If a member thinks that he or she has a current COVID-19 infection, the member should be tested with a nasal swab test.
International claims for medically necessary services related to COVID-19 will process at the in-network level of benefits.
Based on recent IRS guidelines, expenses related to testing and treatment, including related office visits, for COVID-19 can process pre-deductible under an HSA-qualified HDHP.
COVID-19 is the official name for the illness caused by the newly identified coronavirus. Since the outbreak began late last year, infections have been reported in numerous international locations, including within the United States.
On January 30, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern.” On January 31st, the U.S. Health and Human Services office declared a public health emergency to aid the U.S. healthcare community in responding to COVID-19.
Coronaviruses are not new, and are very common in many species of animals, including camels, cattle and bats. Occasionally coronaviruses can infect people and then spread person-to-person, as was the case with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and now with COVID-19. Coronaviruses infect the respiratory tract and are associated with the common cold and pneumonia.
The virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly from person to person, primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Spread is more likely when people are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). Maintaining good social distance (about 6 feet) is very important in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
It may be possible that a person can also get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, but we are still learning more about this virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends people practice frequent “hand hygiene,” which is either washing hands with soap or water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. The CDC also recommends routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces.
COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community (“community spread”) in many affected geographic areas. Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.
Some people with confirmed cases of COVID-19 experience very mild symptoms while others have experienced severe illness and death. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus and have included:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- Sore throat
- New loss of taste or smell
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
- If you have questions or concerns about whether you should receive a test for COVID-19, your physician or healthcare provider will be able to make that recommendation based on your specific circumstances (for example, your age, any chronic conditions that you have, your health history, where you live, etc.)
- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama covers, with no member cost share, testing that is ordered by your provider to help diagnose or treat you for COVID-19
Yes. The FDA has granted emergency use authorization for the COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccine roll-out is likely to occur in phases with initial administration targeted to healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities.
The CDC recommends the following best practices to avoid becoming sick with a respiratory illness:
- Avoid close contact with sick people
- Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands
- Stay home when sick
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then discard the tissue
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
People who have recently traveled to any area where there is an outbreak, or had close contact with someone infected with COVID-19 and develop symptoms, should contact their healthcare provider and make them aware of their symptoms and exposure. Their healthcare provider will advise them of the appropriate next steps.
Prime Therapeutics (Prime)/Pharmacy Questions
Yes. We are working with Prime to allow members to obtain early refills of their medications. Prime will allow early refills on prescription drugs including retail, maintenance, mail order and specialty drugs from 3/7/2020 until further notice.
Prime is maintaining communication with all pharmacies and notifying them how to submit early refill prescription claims. Contact your pharmacy if an early refill of your prescription medication(s) is needed.We recommend members use their 90-day retail or mail order benefit when possible.
News and Updates
Posted June 17, 2020
COVID-19 Impacts Maternal Care
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how many women access prenatal care. According to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health of America Report on Maternal Health, 61% of commercially insured women surveyed nationally saw limited office hours from their doctors, and 48% had their appointments shifted to virtual visits. More concerning is that over 1 in 4 women surveyed skipped prenatal care appointments since the start of the pandemic or when social distancing restrictions were put into place.
The COVID-19 pandemic also impacted delivery plans for the majority of women surveyed:
The Study measures member satisfaction among 146 health plans in 22 regions throughout the nation. J.D. Power examines six key factors: coverage and benefits, provider choice, information and communication, billing and payment, cost, and customer service.
- 53% were not able to have a loved one in the delivery room with them
- 28% delivered at a different hospital than they originally planned
- 15% used a different doctor
- 15% shifted to a home birth
Postnatal care plans also changed for a majority of women due to COVID-19.
- 61% said their doctor’s office hours were limited
- 48% had their appointments shifted to virtual visits
- 25% of women missed their postnatal visits
According to the Centers for Disease Control, it is important for expectant mothers to not skip prenatal care or postpartum appointments. If they are concerned about attending an appointment due to COVID-19, they are advised to talk to their healthcare provider about steps being taken to separate healthy patients from those who may be sick.
Access to quality care is critical to helping women lead healthier lives, have healthier pregnancies and uncomplicated births. Towards this end, Blue Cross has expanded access to telehealth for in-network providers with no member cost-sharing in addition to office visit consultations by physicians. This applies to members wanting to receive their care remotely to limit their exposure to COVID-19.
The Blue Cross Blue Shield HOA report also found that:
- A greater number of women are entering pregnancy with pre-existing conditions like hypertension, type II diabetes, obesity, major depression, anxiety and substance use disorder – increasing the risk of pregnancy and childbirth complications.
- While 80 percent of women have healthy pregnancies and deliveries, rates of complications are rising due to gestational diabetes and preeclampsia (due to high blood pressure). Between 2014-2018, the rates of pregnancy complications rose more than 16%, while rates for childbirth complications rose more than 14%. About seven out of every 1,000 pregnant women experienced both kinds of complications, a nearly 31% increase since 2014.
- Women diagnosed with postpartum depression increased nearly 30% since 2014. Pre-existing behavioral health conditions are linked with a greater risk for postpartum depression. More than two thirds of women diagnosed with postpartum depression had at least one other behavioral health diagnosis before becoming pregnant, and more than 1 in 4 women had two or more pre-existing behavioral health conditions including anxiety, major depression, and substance use disorder.
You can view the entire Health of America Report on Maternal Health here.
Posted March 31, 2020
Alabama Health Organizations Join Together to Stop the Spread of COVID-19
The health and safety of Alabamians is our top priority. To that end, the Alabama Department of Public Health, the Alabama Hospital Association, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, the Medical Association of the State of Alabama and Alabama Medicaid Agency are joining together to help stop the spread of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).
"We have been working very closely with numerous organizations across the state as part of our mitigation strategy. We appreciate their involvement and support as we work to protect the health of Alabamians," said Dr. Scott Harris, State Health Officer, Alabama Department of Public Health.
We are now seeing an increase in confirmed cases in Alabama. Even though it’s not the high number of confirmed cases when compared to some other states, we can’t stress enough the importance for the public to take the “stay at home” request made by the Governor seriously. The COVID-19 healthcare crisis is constantly changing so we urge Alabamians to listen to the guidance and follow the instructions given by medical professionals and our government leaders. If you must go out, please practice social distancing. Here’s why:
A person with COVID-19 can be asymptomatic (not experiencing any symptoms), so even if a person is feeling fine they can be a carrier of COVID-19 and be a potential threat to others, especially those at higher risk. People who are at higher risk include those who are 65 and older, those who have compromised immune systems and people with other underlying health conditions, like heart problems or diabetes. COVID-19 can cause serious illness, and even death, especially to those in a higher risk population.
According to the Alabama Hospital Association, the goal of staying at home and practicing social distancing is also to slow down the spread of the disease so we don’t overwhelm our health care system. Most diseases have a natural curve that starts small, peaks and then goes back down. If individuals will stay home and not venture out when they’re sick, we hope that we can interrupt the natural flow of the outbreak and be sure our hospitals, physicians and others can continue to care for regular patients as well as those who may need hospitalization due to COVID-19.
“Our hospital leaders and frontline staff have been working tirelessly day and night to address this challenge, and they need our support,” said Dr. Don Williamson, president, Alabama Hospital Association. “Many communities have asked what they can do to help, and the answer is simple. We all need to practice social distancing and stay home.”
The Medical Association of the State of Alabama, physicians and the entire medical community are also urging all Alabamians to stay at home. Physical distancing and staying at home are the key to slowing the spread of COVID-19 to give physicians, nurses and everyone on the front lines a fighting chance at having the equipment, time and resources necessary to take on this immense challenge.
“Physicians are on the front lines and will continue to provide first contact, preventive and ongoing essential care during this medical emergency. The Medical Association is dedicated to advocating for access to the highest quality of care for Alabamians, and that remains the case in the face of this pandemic,” said Dr. John S. Meigs, President of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama has also taken a number of important steps to ensure their members have access to the right care when they need it.
“Now more than ever we want our customers to know we are here for them, and we will remain by their side during this challenging time,” said Tim Vines, President and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama. “We will continue to work closely with our health organization partners across the state to do everything possible to help stop the spread of COVID-19.”
Blue Cross is waiving prior authorizations for diagnostic tests and covered services that are medically necessary and consistent with CDC guidance for members diagnosed with COVID-19. Access to prescription medications has been increased by waiving early medication refill limits. Telehealth access has also expanded, giving members the option to receive their care remotely to limit their exposure to COVID-19 and other illnesses. Telehealth can be used for acute symptoms, such as those related to COVID-19, but also for patient consultations and evaluations for routine, chronic and behavioral health conditions that, based on the provider’s medical opinion, can be managed over the phone.
Pharmacies statewide are also doing their part in the fight against COVID-19. Most are helping Alabamians with early refills, offering curbside pickup and expanded delivery options including making deliveries to the elderly.
The Alabama Medicaid Agency has taken similar steps to protect the health of recipients, providers, and Medicaid employees during the COVID-19 emergency. Since these unprecedented times require limited interaction, Medicaid temporarily extended the scope of telemedicine services for providers, and they implemented temporary modified work schedules for employees allowing the Agency to continue providing essential services to Medicaid recipients and providers.
“We anticipate no disruption in our day-to-day functions and all district offices will remain open with modified staffing requirements,” said Stephanie Azar, Commissioner of the Alabama Medicaid Agency. “The Agency stands ready to continue serving the most vulnerable residents of our state in perhaps their greatest time of need.”
These are difficult times for all of us, but we are confident we will overcome this healthcare crisis if we all do our part. Stay at home, practice social distancing, wash your hands often, stay informed and follow CDC guidelines. During this unprecedented time, we are rising to the challenge and doing what is best for the health and safety of Alabamians and the communities we serve.
MEDIA RELEASE - Posted March 19, 2020
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama Warning Alabamians of COVID-19 Scam
Birmingham, AL – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama is warning their customers and Alabamians about national Coronavirus scams. These scams are targeting members by leveraging fear related to COVID-19.
Scam Warning Signs:
- Door to door solicitation for any testing and prescribing for COVID-19; (tell individual(s) you are not interested, and you will contact your physician
- Phone calls asking for health insurance contract information for free testing and services; hang up immediately)
- Outreach from unfamiliar healthcare workers offering to send you a home test kit
- False advertisements for vaccinations or medications to treat the disease
- Unexplained or unauthorized laboratory tests or prescriptions appearing on your Blue Cross Explanation of Benefits statement
- Advertisements offering health products that are ineffective against COVID-19 such as herbal teas, supplements, oils or ointments
- Spear phishing emails referencing COVID-19 which contain malware
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama cares about the health and well-being of our members and Alabamians. We are taking every step available to minimize these scams. We encourage members and Alabamians to be vigilant. If you suspect healthcare fraud, please report it to AlabamaBlue.com/fraud or call our fraud hotline at 1-800-824-4391.
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MEDIA RELEASE - Posted March 17, 2020
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama Expands Telehealth Coverage as Customers’ Health and Well-Being Remains Top Priority
Birmingham, AL – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama wants our customers to have peace of mind knowing we are here for them, and their health and well-being is our top priority. We continue to monitor the outbreak of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) in Alabama. In response, Blue Cross will expand telehealth to ease access to appropriate medical services for our customers.
Effective March 16, 2020, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama is expanding telehealth coverage. This expansion allows physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and behavioral health practitioners to provide medically necessary services via telephone consultation.
Telehealth gives our customers the option to receive their care remotely to limit their exposure to COVID-19 and other illnesses. It can also serve as an initial screening for patients who may need testing for the coronavirus. For guidance on coronavirus testing, please refer to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and the Alabama Department of Public Health websites.
Telehealth is appropriate for consultations and visits for low complexity or routine health conditions. It is also used for ongoing health evaluations and care management. This includes acute illnesses or chronic disease management that, based on the provider’s medical judgment, can be managed over the phone.
Customers can check with their physicians to see if they participate in Telehealth. This service is available when an in-network provider is used.
If members have questions, they can call the customer service number located on the back of their ID card. For the latest on COVID-19 developments, please visit the CDC’s website.
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MEDIA RELEASE - Posted March 12, 2020
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama Prepared to Meet the Needs of Customers In the Event of Sustained Spread of COVID-19
Birmingham, AL – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama cares first and foremost about the health and well-being of our customers. Please be assured Blue Cross will continue to meet the needs of groups, members and providers with the sustained spread of a novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
“The health and safety of our members remains our top priority,” said Dr. Dow Briggs, Executive Vice President of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama. “We want our customers to have peace of mind and know they have access to the healthcare they need if they are exposed to coronavirus or become sick. We will continue to do what is necessary to support the health and well-being of our members and the community.”
As the illness caused by COVID-19 continues to spread, many are concerned about the possible impact to themselves and their families. Blue Cross has taken the following steps to ensure our members have access to the right care during this challenging time.
- Waiving prior authorizations for diagnostic tests and covered services that are medically necessary and consistent with CDC guidance for members diagnosed with COVID-19.
- Covering medically necessary diagnostic tests that are consistent with CDC guidance related to COVID-19 at no cost to our members with fully insured individual, employer-based, Federal Employee Program, and Medicare Advantage plans. For self-funded employer plans, members’ cost share for diagnostic tests will be based on their benefit plan.
- Increasing access to prescription medications by waiving early medication refill limits on prescriptions and encouraging members to use their 90-day retail or mail order benefit.
- Expanding access to telehealth and nurse/provider hotlines. Given the nature of the COVID-19 outbreak, seeking in-person medical care may lead to further spreading of the virus.
- Dedicating staff to be specifically available to address inquiries related to medical services, ensuring timely responses related to COVID-19.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama is closely monitoring the situation and has contingency plans in place to ensure business operations continue to run smoothly:
- Continuing to process claims electronically. 99% of claims are process electronically, and we do not anticipate disruption to claims processing.
- Expanding our telework capabilities to cover nearly 100% of our workforce over the next 2-4 weeks to maintain staffing of critical business areas.
If members have questions, they can call the customer service number located on the back of their ID card. For the latest on COVID-19 developments, please visit the CDC’s website.
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Posted March 9, 2020
A Message About the Coronavirus (COVID-19)
As the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, continues to spread, many are concerned about the possible impact to themselves and their families. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama is closely monitoring the situation and has prepared contingency plans to ensure business operations continue to run smoothly in the event of a widespread outbreak.
To help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, we encourage you to follow the CDC’s guidelines:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after coughing or sneezing.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, or cough or sneeze into your elbow or shoulder, not your hands.
- Stay home if sick, and stay home for at least 24 hours after the last signs of fever.
To keep current on the latest COVID-19 developments, please visit the CDC’s website.