Tag Archive for: COVID-19

Washington Announces End of State COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

From ALLtech medical provider Regence BlueShield

As the COVID-19 pandemic approaches the three-year milestone, it’s become hard to remember what life was like before we were all living under a public health emergency (PHE). For residents of Washington state, that is changing.

According to Covid Act Now, community risk for COVID-19 throughout most of Washington is low. The state’s vaccination rates are among the highest in the United States, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports Washington as having the fifth-lowest death rate among all states.

Washington state’s public health leaders still emphasize the importance of staying up to date on vaccinations and continued mask wearing. And with full confidence in those and other tools proven to mitigate COVID-19’s impact, Gov. Jay Inslee officially called an end to the PHE, effective Oct. 31, 2022.

What Washington state ending the PHE means for access to health care

With Washington’s PHE ending, some state-specific PHE provisions have expired. Here’s a summary of what’s changed in Washington.

  • Out-of-network treatment may cost patients more. The Washington PHE temporarily required private health insurers like Regence to cover many members’ COVID-19 treatment at in-network (INN) cost shares. That meant many Washingtonians with employer-sponsored or Individual/family health insurance could access treatment at any provider in the state and pay the typically lower in-network rate, regardless of whether the provider was in the insurer’s network. With the rule’s expiration, these health plan members will want to be careful to seek COVID-19 treatment from in-network (INN) providers to avoid paying higher OON cost shares. For Medicare members, federal PHE considerations may be different.
  • Vaccination counseling may cost more. To encourage vaccination uptake, the Washington PHE temporarily required private health insurers to cover vaccination counseling, in which patients review and discuss the risks and benefits of specific vaccines with their provider, at no cost to the patient. Beginning Nov. 1, insurers are allowed to cover vaccination counseling for most patients at regular health plan cost shares. Check with your health plan to see whether vaccine counseling services will cost you anything out-of-pocket.

What’s not changing in Washington state

The following rules included in the Washington PHE will remain in effect as long as the federal PHE is in place:

  • COVID-19 testing and related provider visits are still covered with $0 out-of-pocket cost to patients when the testing is conducted at an FDA-approved lab.
  • Patients are protected from receiving “surprise bills” for lab fees related to medically necessary diagnostic testing for COVID-19.

Some self-funded employers added customized benefit enhancements to their health plans that may supersede the expiring Washington state and remaining federal PHE rules. In most of these cases, benefit enhancements will remain in place for employees (and their covered dependents) through the end of their employer’s health plan year.

Regence members – including those enrolled in ALLtech – looking to better understand their COVID-19 vaccination, testing and treatment coverage can sign in to their account on regence.com to learn more or call the Customer Service phone number on the back of their member ID card. Members who don’t have an account can create one by visiting regence.com/member/registration.

Stay safe this holiday season as health experts learn more about the Omicron variant

From ALLtech medical provider Regence BlueShield

As more Omicron cases are confirmed and the world waits to learn more about the variant’s severity, many of us are wondering how we can stay safe this holiday season. Vaccine availability and testing make holiday travel to see family and friends seem easier, but it’s important to stay safe and take steps to protect ourselves and loved ones.

“Many families sacrificed their holiday plans in 2020 or shifted to virtual gatherings, so it’s difficult to imagine doing the same again this time around,” said Dr. Drew Oliveira, senior executive medical director for Regence. “But we can’t let our guard down while more is learned about COVID-19 and emerging variants, especially given more people are traveling and gathering indoors. We may see a surge in infections, especially in places with low vaccination rates, so we must continue protecting one another by taking the appropriate precautions.”

Get vaccinated for the flu and COVID-19 including your booster

The best way to prevent severe illness and hospitalization from COVID-19 and the flu is to get vaccinated, whether at your doctor’s office or at a pharmacy in your health plan network. For people age 18 and older who are fully vaccinated, getting their COVID-19 booster shot will improve the body’s immune response to infection. While no vaccine provides 100% immunity, all three COVID-19 vaccines significantly reduce severe illness and hospitalization. In the U.S. nearly all cases of severe COVID-19 illness, hospitalization and death have occurred with unvaccinated people.

Everyone eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine is encouraged to get their shots. COVID-19 vaccines are fully covered, and most health plans cover the flu vaccine as well.

Mask-up, wash hands, physical distance, test, isolate if sick. Repeat.

It’s good to remember these preventive practices that can help reduce the risk of infection, keeping you and your community safe.

  • Wear a mask and use physical distancing in public spaces
  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Test for COVID-19 if you have symptoms or have been in contact with an infected person
  • Self-isolate if you receive a positive result
  • If you aren’t feeling well, stay home and rest

More information about the available COVID-19 vaccines, including booster shots, is available on the CDC website. Visit the Washington State Department of Health’s COVID-19 Vaccine page or the CDC’s Vaccine Finder page to find out where all eligible people ages 5 and older can get a COVID-19 vaccine.

For members enrolled in ALLtech, more information about your coverage for COVID-19 vaccinations, testing and treatment can be found at regence.com.

What is the Difference Between Flu and COVID-19?

From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Think it’s easy to tell the difference between symptoms of influenza (flu) and COVID-19? Think again. Both COVID-19 and flu can have varying degrees of signs and symptoms, ranging from no symptoms (asymptomatic) to severe symptoms. Common symptoms that COVID-19 and flu share include:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/having chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle pain or body aches
  • Headache
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Change in or loss of taste or smell, although this is more frequent with COVID-19.

Flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a coronavirus first identified in 2019, and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses. Some differences to keep in mind include:

  • COVID-19 seems to spread more easily than flu. However, as more people become fully vaccinated against COVID‑19, the CDC says the spread of the virus that causes COVID‑19 should slow down.
  • Compared to flu, COVID-19 can cause more serious illnesses in some people.
  • COVID-19 can also take longer before people show symptoms and people can be contagious for longer.

Because some of the symptoms of flu, COVID-19, and other respiratory illnesses are similar, the difference between them cannot be made based on symptoms alone. The CDC says testing is needed to tell what the illness is and to confirm a diagnosis, especially since people can be infected with both flu and the virus that causes COVID-19 at the same time and have symptoms of both influenza and COVID-19.

To read more, visit the CDC’s page on Similarities and Differences between Flu and COVID-19, or its detailed pages on Flu Symptoms and COVID-19 Symptoms.

Be sure to also read our post Now is the Time to Catch Up on Immunizations highlighting August’s recognition as National Immunization Awareness Month.

Questions About the COVID-19 Vaccine? ALLtech Partner Regence Has Answers

Whether you’re in search of a COVID-19 vaccine for yourself or someone else, or just have questions about the vaccine, ALLtech’s medical underwriter at Regence Blue Shield/Asuris Northwest Health has answers.

In its article Vaccine distribution broadens to pharmacies, CDC offers locator tool, Regence has resources to help you find out whether you’re eligible, and can help you decide which vaccine is right for you.

Keep in mind that in Washington state, we have a plethora of COVID-19 vaccine resources available at our fingertips. Eligibility information is just a click away through the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Phase Finder form. Then, once you’ve determined that you’re eligible, you have the flexibility to search for an appointment through COVIDWA.com, a website created by a team of volunteer software engineers that you can read about in GeekWire.

For detailed flyers from Regence and Asuris that explain how the vaccine works, where to get it, and more, please click the below links:

Regence COVID-19 Vaccine Flyer

Regence COVID-19 Vaccine Flyer

Asuris COVID-19 Vaccine Flyer

Asuris COVID-19 Vaccine Flyer

Your Video Guide on the COVID-19 Vaccine from MDLIVE

ALLtech is thankful to our partners at MDLIVE for sharing Your Guide to the COVID-19 Vaccine: A Video FAQ.

Through its medical providers at Regence BlueShield and Asuris Northwest Health, ALLtech is able to offer 24/7 virtual care at $0 copay on most plans through MDLIVE.

MDLIVE is a valuable option whether you’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and want to avoid exposing others, or you’re seeking non-emergency medical care but want to limit your own potential exposure.

Available by phone, secure video or mobile app, MDLIVE offers virtual primary care, psychiatry and counseling therapy, and can be used to treat a range of non-emergency conditions including cold/flu, allergies and headaches. For a list of common ailments, view our MDLIVE pdf.

To learn more about ALLtech or to get a free quote to become a member, fill out our Request a Quote form or call (206) 602-3558.

Next Steps to Access the COVID-19 Vaccine

Now that the COVID-19 vaccine has been approved, what are the next steps to learn more or to get the vaccine?

Washington state offers a comprehensive Coronavirus Response page at coronavirus.wa.gov, where you can determine your eligibility, find vaccine locations, get the latest COVID-19 news and more.

Checking in with your doctor about when you where you should be vaccinated is the first step you should take, according to ALLtech’s medical partner at Regence BlueShield in its article The FDA has OK’d the COVID-19 Vaccine. Now what?

And in the meantime, the article reiterates that the best way to continue to protect yourself and others – including after you’ve been vaccinated – is to:

  • Wear a mask
  • Maintain physical distance
  • Wash your hands

Practicing vigilance and resilience in the winter of COVID-19

“As we weather the pandemic, we should focus on maintaining not just a healthy body but also a healthy mind,” Dr. Drew Oliveira, senior executive medical director for Regence BlueShield, says in the GeekWire article Practicing vigilance and resilience in the winter of COVID-19.

The article from Regence BlueShield, which partners with ALLtech to offer the plan’s diverse medical insurance benefits, offers tips to help the community stay healthy in body, mind and spirit this winter.

In addition to doing your part to help stop the spread of COVID-19, the article also reminds you to keep up on immunizations and other routine health care, while also emphasizing the importance of staying connected to family and friends.

Read more in the article Practicing vigilance and resilience in the winter of COVID-19.

To learn more about ALLtech health insurance benefits, please fill out our Request a Quote form.

‘COVID Doesn’t Care That It’s a Holiday’

The steady rise of COVID-19 cases is leading many people to change their upcoming holiday plans, according to ALLtech medical providers Regence BlueShield.

In a recent national survey, Regence found that 58 percent of respondents don’t plan to socialize outside their household this holiday season, according to its article Holiday travel: Keep your loved ones safe this winter as COVID-19 spreads. Meanwhile, 41 percent of respondents don’t plan to travel because of COVID rates, while 24 percent say they will travel but plan to take precautions such as wearing a mask and using hand sanitizer.

“COVID doesn’t care that it’s a holiday,” Barbara Alexander, president-elect of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, says in the article. “Now is not the time to let our guard down and say it’s the holiday and let’s be merry. I think we need to maintain our vigilance here.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the safest way to celebrate the holidays is at home with the people you live with, but it also offers plenty of suggestions on how to travel and celebrate safely.

Regence adds that celebrating virtually is also a great option for families and friends who are missing one another.

As a reminder, ALLtech offers a variety of resources for members seeking mental health resources, from stress‑reducing apps to virtual counseling and more, which you can read more about in GeekWire.

GeekWire: Mental health counseling available via ALLtech as scientists predict tough winter due to COVID surge

As COVID-19 cases and accompanying hospitalizations continue to rise, ALLtech and our exclusive partners at GeekWire remain dedicated to sharing ways to help support your health – including your mental health.

Through what could be a long and lonely winter for many, GeekWire offers hopeful resources in the article “Mental health counseling available via ALLtech as scientists predict tough winter due to COVID surge.”

The article outlines the virtual counseling available to ALLtech members, including MDLIVE through Regence BlueShield/Asuris Northwest Health, and BetterHelp through Wellspring EAP; the Livongo wellness app that helps you manage stress; and additional resources for members in need of additional assistance.

Read more in the article “Mental health counseling available via ALLtech as scientists predict tough winter due to COVID surge.

Event: GeekWire Roundtable on Enabling Digital Health at Scale Post-COVID-19

Join our exclusive partners at GeekWire for a free virtual roundtable:

Enabling Digital Health at scale Post-COVID-19 – a more effective, and more convenient future
November 17, 2020, 10 a.m.

COVID-19 is catalyzing digital transformation in many areas of healthcare and creating opportunities for innovators. The impact on the traditional, hospital-centric health system will accelerate business model shifts, new entrants, and the adoption of new technologies. Tune in to this panel discussion to learn more about tech’s critical role in this shift, and the opportunities for innovation associated with this acceleration of distributed care due to COVID-19. Registration is free but space is limited.

The session will be moderated by Providence Digital Innovation Group Chief Digital Strategy Officer Sara Vaezy with panelists including:

  • Dr. Peter Lee
    Microsoft Corporate Vice President, Research & Incubations
  • Aaron Martin
    Providence Digital Innovation Group EVP & Chief Digital Officer
  • Julie Sandler
    Pioneer Square Labs Managing Director
  • Amir Dan Rubin
    One Medical Chair, CEO & President