News Updates

Article on the BCBST News Center (July 29, 2020)

How our foundation is helping Chattanooga students stay connected

BCBST News Center
Amanda Haskew

 

In Hamilton County, approximately 28,500 students qualify for free and reduced lunch assistance, a measure the school system uses to determine financial need. Many of these students also don’t have internet access in their homes, which makes learning challenging, and COVID-19 has made it even more so.

While many students are participating in virtual learning and online classes to keep up with their schoolwork, those without internet access risk falling behind. When we spoke to Maureen Clark, a teacher at Soddy Daisy High School in Chattanooga, earlier this year, she touched on the challenges her students are facing as a result of the pandemic.

“Our school is rural, and there are some students who don’t have access to things at home. For some, school is the first time they’ve been exposed to the internet. The big thing is finding that safe option where they’re not going to the library or somewhere else. They’re staying put. We also want to find a solution where they’re not being penalized because they don’t have the advantages everyone else does,” she said.

To read the full article, please click here.


Article on the BCBST News Center (July 24, 2020)

How Clinica Medicos is helping vulnerable Chattanoogans fight COVID-19

BCBST News Center
Amanda Haskew

 

In recent weeks, COVID-19 cases have been rising in Chattanooga. The Hamilton County Health Department reports that nearly half of patients diagnosed with COVID-19 in the area are Hispanic, even though they make up only 6% of the county’s population, according to 2019 census data. And the virus has become another example of the health disparities minority groups face.

Dr. Kelly Rodney Arnold operates Clinica Medicos, a BlueCross community partner and local medical center serving uninsured and underinsured patients. More than 90% of the clinic’s patients are Latinx and often don’t speak English. Dr. Arnold employs a staff of 35. Each team member is bilingual in Spanish and English, breaking one of the primary barriers to care for these populations – language. No one has to have an appointment or insurance to visit. And the clinic is open seven days a week to accommodate patients’ schedules, as many cannot afford to miss work.

Dr. Arnold and her staff have found their clinic on the front lines helping one of the city’s most vulnerable and at-risk populations in the fight against this dangerous new virus.

To read the full article, please click here.


Article on The Tennessean (July 23, 2020)

Why COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to domestic violence | Opinion

The Tennessean
Dr. Jeanne James

 

As a pediatrician, I chose this profession to help children grow up to be healthy, happy and productive adults. I believe that is an important goal for all of us to pursue in our communities. Today, we face a challenge to this goal unlike any I’ve seen in my career.

One of the many unfortunate results of the COVID-19 pandemic is the uptick in family violence against spouses, partners and children.

The Tennessean reported that between March 1 and 30, 2020, calls to the domestic violence hotline operated by the YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee increased by 31% over the same period last year.

To read the full article, please click here. This story was also featured on The Memphis Commercial Appeal and The Knoxville News Sentinel


Article on The Tennessean (June 25, 2020)

Why we must recognize racism as a public health threat | Opinion

The Tennessean
Dr. Andrea Willis

 

During my pediatric training, I sometimes witnessed children dying from severe illness or trauma. I will never forget those children, but what haunts my soul are the cries of their mothers.

I can recall the first time I heard a mother wail as her child passed away. I can only describe it as visceral. It was not borne of any emotion with which I was familiar. It came from a much deeper place. It came from her soul, and it connected with my own without words being said.

The hurt was so real and painful that, in that second, I closed my eyes and would have sworn it was my own son who died.

I heard that sound several times, and it never got easier. Each time, no matter the race or ethnicity of the mother, my heart and soul mourned her loss like it was my own son. So, I know firsthand that love and empathy transcend race.

To read the full article, please click here. This story was also featured on The Memphis Commercial Appeal and The Knoxville News Sentinel.


Article on the BCBST News Center (June 23, 2020)

4 telehealth takeaways from our chief medical officer’s U.S. Senate Committee testimony

BCBST News Center
Dr. Andrea Willis

 

On June 17, 2020, Dr. Andrea Willis, senior vice president and chief medical officer at BlueCross, testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP). She was invited to share what we’re learning about telehealth as more people have embraced it during the COVID-19 pandemic.

HELP has broad jurisdiction over health care, education, employment and retirement policies nationwide — including focus areas like public health — and is led by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).

To read the full article, please click here.


Article on The Tennessean (June 15, 2020)

Cancer through COVID-19: What it means when you face a tumor and a pandemic

The Tennessean
Jessica Bliss

 

The diagnosis came on a Monday at precisely 1:04 p.m. The call from the doctor lasted only six minutes, but in a matter of life or death, it felt like a lifetime.

“This is treatable,” the doctor started. Then came several minutes of conversation Jennifer Brantley could barely comprehend, her mind stuck on one horrific word. Before the doctor hung up, she said one last thing: “We’re now going to get you cancer-free.”

Cancer.

Brantley hoped those syllables would never would be connected to her health. But on Oct. 7, 2019, they were. Her tumor, embedded in the shoulder muscle just behind her right armpit, stretched 2 inches wide and more than 4 inches long.

Getting rid of it would mean months of chemotherapy and radiation to shrink it before an hourslong surgery to remove it. An operation was scheduled for March 25, 2020 — just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States with brute force.

Brantley had no way of knowing then that on her surgery day she would be fighting for her life against both a tumor she could feel and a pandemic. In the aftermath, it would be the ability to receive care through calls on her computer that would keep her safely isolated in recovery at home.

To read the full article, please click here.


Article on the BCBST News Center (June 5, 2020)

BlueCross employees donate 55,128 meals to help hungry Tennesseans

BCBST News Center
Amanda Haskew

 

Across much of the country, the COVID-19 pandemic has left local food banks juggling increased demand with decreased donations. And many organizations are seeing first-time clients — some of whom are out of work and unsure where their next meal is coming from.

For the third year in a row, BlueCross employees teamed up to help hungry Tennesseans through the company’s Neighbor to Neighbor Food Drive – this time with a special determination to make a difference for those affected by COVID-19. Typically, employees bring in donations of non-perishable food items to be delivered to partner food banks across the state. However, this year, each organization set up an online donation portal so employees could make monetary donations while 96% of our people are still working from home.

To read the full article, please click here.


Article on the BCBST News Center (June 1, 2020)

We’re continuing to waive COVID-19 testing and treatment costs for our members

BCBST News Center
Jesse Thompson

 

As Tennesseans have united to embrace novel coronavirus safety protocols and help protect each other’s health, COVID-19 continues to affect our members and communities. And we want to make sure the people we serve have convenient access to the care they need.

That’s why we’ve committed to waiving member costs on testing and treatment until the end of the COVID-19 national emergency,  whenever that may be.

To read the full article, please click here.


Article on the Chattanooga Times Free Press (May 30, 2020)

Coronavirus empties offices, reshapes work in Chattanooga

Chattanooga Times Free Press
Dave Flessner

 

In 2009 after years of planning and development, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee reshaped the downtown skyline of its hometown by relocating more than 4,000 employees who previously worked in a half dozen buildings in Chattanooga into a $299 million corporate headquarters built atop Cameron Hill.

Tennessee’s biggest health insurer said consolidating its staff and operations helped boost employee efficiency and morale while better protecting data security.

But barely a decade later, new technologies and the coronavirus have combined to upend such thinking and BlueCross is now planning to have a majority of its staff working from home even after the coronavirus is vanquished.

To read the full article, please click here. 


Article on the Tennessean (May 27, 2020)

Establishing a stable health routine helps prepare for unexpected such as COVID-19 | Opinion

The Tennessean
Dr. Andrea Willis

 

Taking preventive steps in your health can help you or your loved ones, whether it be a new fight like COVID-19, or a familiar one like the flu.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, you may have put off our routine medical care. It may feel natural, as many of us have been following safety protocols and postponing non-essential appointments of all kinds over the past few months. But now more than ever, it’s important for all of us to get the preventive care we need — and easier since BlueCross and some other insurers are waiving some member costs and making telehealth resources more accessible.

I often hear about people who haven’t managed health conditions like heart disease as well as they should. For example, a woman in her mid-60s with heart disease who may have been unable to make healthy lifestyle choices after her diagnosis, or hasn’t addressed the depression that may have resulted from it, or doesn’t take her medications as directed by her physician.

This can all lead to her immune system being compromised, and her being more at risk of complications from other illnesses, such as the novel coronavirus.

To read the full article, please click here.


Article on BCBST News Center (May 19, 2020)

BlueCross Waives Primary, Behavioral Care Costs for Medicare Advantage Members

Tennessee seniors will benefit from change for doctor’s office, telehealth visits with in-network providers

BCBST News Center

 

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee will waive Medicare Advantage member costs for doctor’s office and virtual visits to in-network primary care and behavioral health care providers from May 19 through September 30, 2020.

“Many Tennessee seniors may have been following safety protocols and postponing health care visits over the past few months,” said Todd Ray, senior vice president and general manager of senior products. “We hope this enhanced coverage will bring peace of mind, help remove barriers and encourage people to seek the routine and preventive care they need.”

To read the full article, please click here.


Article on BCBST News Center (May 14, 2020)

BlueCross Making In-Network Telehealth Services Permanent

Insurer will continue covering primary care, specialty care and behavioral health care virtual visits with in-network providers

BCBST News Center

 

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members will have easier
access to health care services moving forward as the state’s largest insurer makes permanent
its coverage of virtual visits with in-network providers effective immediately.

The BlueCross decision makes it the first major insurer to embrace telehealth for the long-term
after the dramatic expansion of these services during the COVID-19 pandemic, a move the
company said aligns with other steps it has taken to improve access to primary care.

To read the full article, please click here.


Article on the Chattanooga Times Free Press (May 9, 2020)

Friends Indeed: BlueCross thanks health-care workers, first responders

Chattanooga Times Free Press
Lisa Denton

 

If you see yard signs in your community or around town that read “These are our heroes” or “We can’t thank you enough,” those messages of support are from BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, said Dalya J. Qualls, director of corporate communications for Tennessee’s biggest health insurers.

“Our employees have been wanting to say ‘thank you,’ and this was our way to visibly show our support for health-care workers, first responders and all of those individuals who provide lifesaving care,” Qualls said in a news release. “The signs were provided to every employee (more than 6,500) in every location across the state.”

Also as part of their appreciation, the company sent meals to health-care workers at COVID-19 testing sites, the Hamilton County Health Department, Parkridge, Erlanger and CHI Memorial hospitals.

“In total, we provided just over 500 meals from locally owned restaurants to show our support for those on the frontlines of this crisis,” Qualls said.

To read the full article, please click here.


Article on BCBST News Center (May 8, 2020)

Health disparities and COVID-19: Q&A with Dr. Andrea Willis

BCBST News Center
Dalya Qualls

 

COVID-19 has left no community untouched. Infecting more than 1 million Americans and resulting in the deaths of more than 75,000 people as of May 8, the coronavirus has taken an especially dramatic toll on African Americans and other communities of color.

While the nation still lacks complete racial data on COVID-19 patients, according to the latest data where race was provided, African Americans accounted for more than one-third (33%) of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S., yet make up only around 13 percent of the population.

This disproportionate impact is seen here in Tennessee, too. Despite comprising only 17 percent of the population, African Americans represent 21 percent of COVID-19 cases and roughly 31 percent of deaths across the state, according to the latest data available.

These startling numbers highlight the troublesome nature of health disparities in our country. Simply put, when compared to white Americans, racial and ethnic minorities often face higher rates of illness and worse health outcomes whether from more common ailments such as diabetes or the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

As part of her ongoing educational series on the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Andrea Willis, senior vice president and chief medical officer at BlueCross, explains some of the factors driving health disparities  and what you can do to protect yourself and others who may be vulnerable.

To read the full article, please click here.


Article on BCBST WellTuned (May 7, 2020)

Real story: How to prepare for a telehealth visit

BCBST WellTuned
Ali Whittier

 

Jennifer Brantley was diagnosed with cancer in October 2019. After months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, she had to have a tumor removed at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. Her surgery was set for March 25 – during the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After the surgery, Jennifer would also need a follow-up appointment a of couple weeks later. When her doctor’s nurse called, she asked Jennifer if she’d be interested in setting up a telehealth visit.

“COVID-19 was a major concern for me due to my compromised immune system, so I jumped at the chance to do a virtual appointment. That way I wouldn’t have to leave my house,” Jennifer says. “It was nice the doctor’s office was open to helping me come up with a ‘plan B’ for my post-op appointment.”

Jennifer says the scheduling process was similar to an in-person visit; but after experiencing her own first telehealth visit, here are three things she recommends to help you prepare.

To read the full article, please click here.


Article on BCBST News Center (May 5, 2020)

How Tennessee food banks are keeping hunger at bay

BCBST News Center
BCBST Staff

 

The rise of COVID-19 has caused Tennessee’s food banks to be overwhelmed by first-time visitors, while also seeing increased need among populations they already serve.

To help support these organizations as they assist Tennesseans in need, the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Foundation recently donated $3.25 million to six food banks across the state, providing more than 7 million meals.

To read the full article, please click here


Article on the Chattanooga Times Free Press (May 1, 2020)

Who’s the boss? New telework arrangements putting people on their pets’ home turf

Chattanooga Times Free Press
Lisa Denton

 

In mid-March, thousands of Chattanooga-area workers traded office environs for the comforts of home in a bid to let teleworking help curb the spread of the coronavirus. In many households, children were also out of school, significant others were sidelined from jobs or likewise teleworking, and everyone was getting used to a new 24/7 full-house routine — including the family pets.

To read the full article, please click here.


Article on The Tennessean (April 21, 2020)

Telehealth rises to the COVID-19 challenge for Tennesseans | Opinion

The Tennessean
Dr. Andrea Willis

 

During the last few weeks, we’ve become intimately familiar with the concept of social distancing and all it entails — limiting travel, working from home, even covering our faces at the grocery store. But as we all do our part to protect ourselves and those around us, what happens if you still need to see a doctor?

For a wide variety of needs, more Tennesseans than ever are finding telehealth to be a helpful solution. These services are covered by insurance plans such as BlueCross and provide quality care from a certified physician from the comfort and safety of your home, 24/7.

To read the full article, please click here


Article on Chattanooga Times Free Press (April 2, 2020)

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee to pay all member costs for COVID-19 tests and treatment

Chattanooga Times Free Press
Dave Flessner

 

Tennessee’s biggest health insurer announced Thursday it will cover all expenses for COVID-19 treatments, including hospitalizations, for the next two months.

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee said it is waiving all member cost-sharing for testing and treatments for coronavirus through May 31 to help ensure that all of its members get full treatment for the spreading coronavirus.

To read the full article, please click here


Article on BCBST News Center (April 2, 2020)

BlueCross to Cover Full Treatment Costs for COVID-19

BCBST News Center
John Hawbaker

 

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee will waive all member cost-sharing for COVID-19 treatments, including hospitalizations, through May 31, 2020.

“As part of our mission, our first priority is the health of our members and the communities we serve,” said JD Hickey, M.D., president and CEO. “And since the COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything our members have faced in recent memory, we want to make sure we remove any barriers to receiving the care they need.”

To read the full article, please click here


Article on BCBST News Center (March 30, 2020)

How to Seek Care and Avoid Spreading Coronavirus

BCBST News Center
Ali Whittier

 

Social distancing has played an important part in limiting the spread of the coronavirus, but what should you do if you think you’re infected with COVID-19?

If you’re showing symptoms such as a fever, dry cough and shortness of breath, Dr. Andrea Willis, senior vice president and chief medical officer at BlueCross, explains steps you can take to protect yourself and those around you in her latest video update.

To read the full article, please click here


Article on BCBST News Center (March 27, 2020)

BlueCross Warns of Coronavirus Scams

BCBST News Center
Dalya Qualls

 

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee warns members that scammers are taking advantage of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and to be alert of potential scam activity.

Reported scams include unsolicited phone calls that could be an attempt to fraudulently gain personal information. BlueCross is urging members and customers not to give personal information to these callers.

To read the full article, please click here.


Article on The Tennessean (March 26, 2020)

Tennesseans will get through coronavirus outbreak together | Opinion

The Tennessean
Dr. Andrea Willis

 

I’ve seen a lot of stories over these past few weeks where people are quoted as saying, “I feel fine. I don’t see any need to stop doing the things I love to do.”

And that prompts me to reiterate some important steps for us to make it through this challenging time — and I am confident that we will. But we must be on the same page regarding best practices for halting the spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.

The irony is not lost on me that, to get through the coronavirus COVID-19 crisis together, we must keep ourselves apart.

To read the full article, please click here.


Article on Chattanooga Times Free Press (March 25, 2020)

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Foundation gives $3.25 million to state’s food relief efforts affected by coronavirus crisis

Chattanooga Times Free Press
Dave Flessner

 

With schools and many work sites closed and more people out of work due to the coronavirus, the Chattanooga Food Bank anticipates the number of area residents seeking food assistance will surge by 30%.

To continue to provide enough meals for its partner agencies in the 20-county Chattanooga region, the local food bank estimates it will cost an extra $100,000 a month, and possibly even more if food donations from local businesses are suspended.

Tennessee’s biggest health insurer announced Wednesday it is coming to the aid of the local food bank with the largest single gift at one time ever for the agency. The BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Chattanooga-based health insurer, is giving $3.25 million to a half dozen food banks across Tennessee, including $500,000 to the Chattanooga Food Bank.

To read the full article, please click here. This story was also featured on The Tennessean and in the print edition of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. 


Article on BCBST News Center (March 25, 2020)

How our foundation is helping local organizations fight hunger

BCBST News Center
John Hawbaker

 

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads across Tennessee, people are coming together to help one another. Residents are keeping themselves and their neighbors “safer at home” while tending to the vulnerable and supporting local businesses.

But as the pandemic continues to affect our everyday lives, more people are facing uncertainty about providing food for their families. BlueCross leaders recognized these developing needs, and our foundation acted quickly to support local organizations equipped to meet them.

To read the full article, please click here.


Article on Chattanooga Times Free Press (March 18, 2020)

What is the novel coronavirus and how does testing work?

Chattanooga Times Free Press
Staff Report

 

What is the novel coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses, some of which cause respiratory illness in humans. The virus exhibits a crown-like halo, when viewed under an electron microscope, which is how it got its name.

Coronaviruses have been found circulating among animals, such as camels, cats and bats and a few have jumped to people — a spread that is defined by epidemiologists as “zoonotic.”

Prior to December 2019, there were four coronaviruses that were known to be circulating among people, two of which were discovered in the 1960’s and two more discovered in the past 2 decades. These coronaviruses caused about 25% of colds.

To read the full article, please click here.


Article on BCBST News Center (March 17, 2020)

BlueCross Expanding Telehealth Access with In-Network Providers

BCBST News Center
John Hawbaker

 

BlueCross will further expand affordable access to telehealth services by covering virtual visits with in-network providers at the same benefit levels as in-person visits. This change includes primary care providers, specialists and behavioral health providers with this capability.

“We know our provider partners share a commitment to practicing social distancing to limit the spread of COVID-19,” said Todd Ray, senior vice president of provider network management. “And we want to support those Tennessee providers who are able to offer telehealth services to our members.”

To read the full article, please click here.


Article on Chattanooga Times Free Press (March 14, 2020)

Chattanooga area employees shift to at-home work as coronavirus spreads

Chattanooga Times Free Press
Dave Flessner

 

On a typical workday at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, thousands of workers drive to the downtown Chattanooga headquarters to do their work for Tennessee’s biggest health insurer.

But starting Monday, most of the more than 6,000 BlueCross employees in Tennessee will do their work at home under a new work-at-home policy designed to limit the potential spread of the coronavirus.

“We’re transitioning virtually all of our employees across all locations to work from home from Monday, March 16, through Monday, March 30,” said John Hawbaker, a spokesman for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. “By distributing the majority of our workforce for this period, we’re reducing our collective risk exposure within our facilities, our BlueCross families and our communities.”

With local schools and universities shut down or moving to online courses this week amid growing fears over the coronavirus pandemic, major Chattanooga employers are allowing, and in some instances mandating, that employees telework from their homes.

To read the full article, please click here.


Article on BCBST News Center (March 12, 2020)

BlueCross Offering Telehealth Visits at No Cost

BCBST News Center

 

BlueCross will offer telehealth visits at no cost to members in eligible health plans now through April 30.

“We know our members are concerned and taking extra precautions, so we want to offer more options for seeking care when they need it,” says Kelly Paulk, vice president of product strategy and individual markets. “They can use telehealth services for many health concerns, 24/7 and from the comfort of their home or workplace.”

This enhanced benefit is available to BlueCross members with Medicare plans, Individual/Marketplace plans and fully insured employer-based plans. Members can call the Member Service number on the back of their BlueCross ID card to find out if they’re eligible.

To read the full article, please click here.


Article on The Tennessean (March 9, 2020)

Blue Cross, the biggest insurance company in Tennessee, to fully cover coronavirus testing

The Tennessean
Brett Kelman and Natalie Allison

 

The largest health insurance company in Tennessee has promised to fully cover coronavirus cases.

The announcement came as the state health commissioner urged other insurance companies to do the same and a few days after a state lawmaker introduced a bill seeking no-cost coronavirus treatment for Tennessee residents with no insurance.

BlueCross and BlueShield of Tennessee, a Chattanooga-based nonprofit that covers about 70% of the state private insurance market, said in a news release it would waive all co-pays and cost sharing for coronavirus testing.

To read the full article, please click here


Article on Chattanooga Times Free Press (March 7, 2020)

Chattanooga area employers making coronavirus contingency plans

Chattanooga Times Free Press
Mary Fortune

 

Local employers are keeping a watchful eye on the spread of coronavirus, preparing to send people home to work if they need to and limiting business travel where they can.

At BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, 32% of employees telecommute full time, and 81% can do so if the need arises, said Roy Vaughn, chief communications officer.

“We’re taking a number of steps to help protect our employees, including eliminating non-essential business travel and recommending people avoid large crowds when possible,” he said. “We have an established pandemic plan, and we’re following guidance from the CDC and state and local health departments to adapt our approach as this situation evolves.”

To read the full article, please click here


Article on Chattanooga Times Free Press (March 6, 2020)

Chattanooga-based BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee to cover full cost of coronavirus testing

Chattanooga Times Free Press
Elizabeth Fite

 

Tennessee’s biggest health insurer said Friday it will waive all member co-pays and cost sharing on FDA-approved testing for the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19), but it’s not clear how much those tests could cost.

“We are committed to helping slow the spread and impact of this new coronavirus,” said Dr. Andrea D. Willis, senior vice president and chief medical officer for Chattanooga-based BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. “If a BlueCross member needs to get tested, we don’t want them to worry about the cost.”

To read the full article, please click here


Article on BCBST News Center (March 6, 2020)

BlueCross to Cover Full Testing Costs for COVID-19

BCBST News Center

 

Members will not be responsible for co-pays or cost sharing for FDA-approved testing

BlueCross will waive all member co-pays and cost sharing on FDA-approved testing for the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

“We are committed to helping slow the spread and impact of this new coronavirus,” said Dr. Andrea D. Willis, senior vice president and chief medical officer. “If a BlueCross member needs to get tested, we don’t want them to worry about the cost.”

The company encourages anyone showing symptoms of COVID-19 to call their health care provider before visiting an office or an emergency room. Their provider can evaluate their symptoms and make a recommendation about whether testing is appropriate.

To read the full article, please click here


Article on BCBST News Center (Updated: March 9, 2020)

We’re answering member questions about coronavirus (COVID-19) coverage

BCBST News Center
Roy Vaughn

 

Update, March 9:

Four COVID-19 diagnoses have now been confirmed in the state of Tennessee. Cases in Shelby County (Memphis area) and in Davidson County (Nashville area) were confirmed this weekend, and another in Middle Tennessee on Monday.

BlueCross will cover vaccines developed and approved to treat COVID-19 when available. Member cost-sharing may apply based on benefit plan.

For the latest updates, visit the Tennessee Department of Health’s website.

Update, March 6:

If you’re a BlueCross member in insured group, individual, Medicare Advantage and Medicaid plans, you can be tested at no cost to you if your provider approves FDA-approved COVID-19 testing. Employers who offer self-funded plans have the option to include COVID-19 testing as a preventive benefit without cost-sharing for their employees.

If you show symptoms of COVID-19, remember to contact your provider first before visiting their office or an emergency room to lower the risk of infecting others.

Original story, March 5:

Plan members have access to the care they need

It’s been more than a month since coronavirus – known as COVID-19 – was declared a public health emergency of international concern by the World Health Organization, and the number of reported cases continues to rise globally and around the United States.

Tennessee now has its first confirmed case of COVID-19, and BlueCross wants its members to know we’re here with answers and support. We’re actively working to ensure our health plan members have access to the best COVID-19 care possible.

“Our first priority is the health of our members and the communities we serve,” says Andrea Willis, M.D., Chief Medical Officer. “We’re working to remove any barriers to appropriate testing for COVID-19. We want our members to get in touch with their doctor or PhysicianNow, our telehealth service, if they feel unwell, so they can be appropriately referred for lab tests rather than to self-refer.”

To read the full article, please click here


Article on BCBST News Center (Updated: March 6, 2020)

What Tennesseans should know about novel coronavirus (COVID-19)

BCBST News Center
Jesse Thompson

 

Update, March 6:

Tennessee now has its first confirmed case of COVID-19, in Williamson County. There are now 14 confirmed deaths in the U.S., 13 of which have been in Washington State, the other in California.

Original story, March 4:

Reported cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19), are growing in the U.S., and there’s a continued focus on the disease from the media, the medical and scientific communities, and public health officials. As of March 4, there have been nine confirmed deaths here in the U.S. None of these people traveled to affected areas, so we understand our members and neighbors across Tennesseans are concerned.

On Feb. 28, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) raised the global health risk for coronavirus from “high” to “very high.” We recognize coronavirus is a serious matter, and we also believe taking preventive steps and practicing caution at home and in social settings are key to peace of mind and remaining healthy.

You can find the latest reliable information about coronavirus on the CDC and Tennessee Department of Health websites.

What we know so far

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that spreads from person to person. The majority of cases recorded have been in China where it was first observed, but it has now been detected in other parts of the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also confirmed cases in the U.S. with no direct link to international travel.

According to the CDC, as of March 4, 80 positive cases have been confirmed in the U.S., but no cases have been confirmed in Tennessee yet.

It’s important to remember that coronavirus symptoms (fever, fatigue, dry cough/sore throat) are common and mimic those of the cold or the flu. However, the virus can lead to severe respiratory illness such as pneumonia or other severe illness in some people, particularly older adults and those with ongoing medical conditions (such as diabetes or heart disease).

The coronavirus can be fatal, and so far in about 3.4% of reported cases. There is no vaccine for COVID-19.

What you should do if you’re exposed

According to the latest guidance from the CDC, you should seek medical care:

If you experience:   and you have:
Fever or signs or symptoms of lower respiratory illness (such as cough or shortness of breath) AND Had close contact with a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patient within 14 days of symptom onset
Fever and signs or symptoms of lower respiratory illness (such as cough or shortness of breath) requiring hospitalization AND A history of travel from affected geographic areas within 14 days of symptom onset
Fever with severe acute lower respiratory illness (such as pneumonia, ARDS) requiring hospitalization and without an alternative explanatory diagnosis (such as influenza) AND No identified source of exposure

Always contact your doctor if you have concerns about your health.

If your provider tells you to get tested for coronavirus, go ahead and seek testing and get treatment following their instructions, just as you would for any other health issue.

Practice precaution for others by calling ahead to your doctor’s office or emergency room and telling them about recent travel and symptoms.

Finally, stay home and separate yourself from other people and animals as much as possible.

What you should do to protect yourself

Like any virus, the best way to prevent infection is to avoid exposure.

Even if no signs or symptoms are present, take these steps to protect yourself and your loved ones:

  • Wash your hands frequently with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use hand sanitizer (60% alcohol solution) if soap and water aren’t available.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and dispose of it immediately.
  • Avoid close contact with others who are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces (phone, keyboard and mouse, doorknobs, appliances).
  • Stay home if you’re not feeling well or have symptoms such as:
    • Fever of 100.4 F or greater
    • Chills
    • Muscle aches
    • Dry cough and/or sore throat
    • Headache
    • Fatigue

Currently, the CDC’s guidance on coronavirus is at a level 3 “warning” for China and South Korea — a recommendation that travelers avoid all non-essential travel to those regions. There are currently no other areas with level 3 warnings.

Iran, Italy and Japan have CDC level 2 coronavirus “alerts.” That means the CDC considers travel could be more serious for senior adults or those with chronic health conditions. Anyone in these groups should talk with a health care provider before traveling.

What we’re doing

We’re taking this situation very seriously and regularly monitoring updates from the CDC, WHO and the Tennessee Department of Health. And we’ll continue to do so as long as necessary for the health and safety of our members, our business partners and our employees.

For more information, read about how we’re monitoring developments and the interview with Dr. Suzanne Corrington on our WellTuned blog.


BlueCross Briefing: Coronavirus Update with Dr. Andrea Willis

Dr. Andrea Willis shares how we’re staying up-to-date on COVID-19 and what you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Watch the video here