Updated August 25, 2020
These are unprecedented times. As the news of COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus, continues to evolve, you may have questions about your coverage or what to do if you feel sick. We've pulled together some information and resources that can help.
- A Joint Statement on the Spread of COVID-19 in South Carolina
A Joint Statement on the Spread of COVID-19 in South Carolina from the South Carolina Medical Association, the South Carolina Hospital Association and BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina
Every day we see reports of COVID-19’s impact on the people of South Carolina. We have watched these numbers closely, and we are concerned about the health and safety of our citizens. All of us can help.
Wearing a face mask in public is one way to help slow the spread of this disease. This is a new disease, but there is growing medical evidence that wearing face masks along with handwashing, social distancing, testing and isolation can successfully limit the spread of the virus. What do we know?
- COVID-19 primarily spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets from infected persons when they cough, sneeze or even speak.
- Respiratory droplets can travel as many as 6 feet or more depending on air currents.
- Many people may get the virus but not have any symptoms. Even when symptoms do occur, it can take up to 14 days for them to appear.
This means that anyone can spread the virus without knowing it, which is unsafe, particularly for older adults and people with other health issues. Wearing a face mask in public helps protect the health of your community — including the health of your own family members and friends as it may keep you from unknowingly and unintentionally spreading the virus to others.
Of course, face coverings should not be placed on children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without help. Wearing a face mask is also not a replacement for social distancing or other preventive measures. You should continue to practice social distancing, wash your hands and stay home if you are ill.
As leaders of the health community here in South Carolina, the South Carolina Medical Association, the South Carolina Hospital Association and BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina all strongly encourage you to do your part in slowing the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a face mask in public.
We pledge to do our part, too. In the coming weeks, you’ll hear and see more from us as we work together to call attention to the role we all can play in slowing the spread of COVID-19 in South Carolina.
- Kids and COVID-19: What to Know
There is no doubt the pandemic has been stressful for everyone. This is especially true for parents.
There are a lot of unknowns with novel coronavirus, but Dr. Matt Bartels, our vice president and chief medical officer, provides some answers to common questions parents may have about the pandemic’s effect on children.
What do we know about children and COVID-19?
We are continually learning with this new virus. It does appear that healthy children are less seriously affected by it. There are exceptions for children with underlying medical conditions, and South Carolina recently had its first pediatric death due to COVID-19.
Recent data in South Carolina shows that about 15 percent of overall coronavirus cases are from those younger than 20. You can find more information on children and COVID-19 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention* (CDC).
What about the multisystem inflammatory syndrome?
We are still evolving in our understanding about this. Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children is a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal organs.
The syndrome can be serious, even deadly, but most children who were diagnosed with this condition thus far have gotten better with medical care.
While concerning, there is no reason to panic, as it is a small number of children (300 worldwide) who have been affected by multisystem inflammatory syndrome. What we do know is that you should seek medical attention immediately if your child presents with unusual symptoms. Find more on what to look for on the CDC’s website here.
Should children still be going to the doctor, even for non-emergency reasons?
You should always consult with your health care provider if you have concerns. You may not need to bring them in to the office, however. During the pandemic, there have been many improvements including the way patients are triaged. Many doctors’ offices have embraced new technology, such as telehealth visits. However, if your child is sick, you should absolutely always consult your doctor.
Should children go in for well checkups and vaccines?
You should check with your doctor’s office. Some well checkups, especially for older children, may be able to be done virtually. The prioritization is on children under 2 years old, who should always be seen in person. We are observing that some patients are delaying getting necessary vaccines and screening tests, but with the right protocols these can all be completed safely. I would urge everyone to do their best to stay up to date on these visits.
As far as activities go for children, what should parents consider?
Use common sense and follow recommendations from the CDC.
Don’t travel too far from home and avoid large group play. It’s mentally and physically beneficial for kids to go out and play to get exercise, but it is important for them to maintain social distancing. Older children should wear masks. Stay outside and keep at least 6 feet from others.
Is there anyone who shouldn’t wear a mask?
Children under 2 or anyone with trouble breathing shouldn’t wear a mask. Over the age of 2, children should wear masks with adult supervision. Children over the age of 2 should wear a mask when they are in public settings — especially indoor areas, when around people who are not in their household, or when they are unable to maintain social distance.
This is important because COVID-19 is spread person to person through respiratory droplets. We know that wearing a face covering is important in slowing the spread of the disease.
What should parents of infants know about COVID-19?
Thankfully, what we have seen with this pandemic is that it really does appear to be affecting children in much less severe ways than older people and people with chronic health conditions. That doesn’t mean children are completely immune. It simply means they tend to be very mildly affected, and in many cases, asymptomatic, including infants. That doesn’t mean they can’t get sick. It just means that their risk appears to be much less as an age group.
At the beginning of the pandemic, there was worry that it would affect the younger infants more severely like the influenza virus often does. The good news is that unlike influenza, COVID-19 does not appear to be severely affecting infants in large numbers.
Certainly, everyone is susceptible to getting this disease, and it appears that many can be carriers of the virus. However, infants shouldn’t be considered at higher risk than other children, and with the right precautions, families with infants can safely venture out of their homes.
The same precautionary rules apply to parents of infants. Don’t overexpose your infants. Keep your distance. Non-household contacts should stay at least 6 feet apart. Wash your hands. Wear a mask if over age 2 years.
What should you do if a parent gets COVID-19?
Consult with your doctor and your pediatrician. Make sure you follow CDC guidance, and isolate from family if possible. Make sure that children and any other caregivers wear masks and minimize close contact to limit exposure.
The CDC recommends having a sick room in your house if possible. Use it to keep anyone infected with the disease separate from others. If you can’t do that, wearing a mask in the house has been shown to limit the spread of the disease.
Find more about what to do if you are sick here.
How should parents be talking with kids about the coronavirus?
The CDC website has very good advice on this. Keep the discussion factual. Minimize the fear. Let kids express themselves. And most importantly, keep the conversation going.
Parents should watch for signs of withdrawal and depression in their children. Don’t let them worry in silence. Kids are intelligent and they are susceptible to the same fears and concerns as adults. Talk to them and provide ways for them to stay active and to do so safely. Communication is very important during these unprecedented times.
Other ideas for practicing good mental health for your kids:
- Take a break from the news and social media
- Get outside
- Maintain a healthy routine
- Find fun activities to do together so that kids have something to look forward to
- Focus on healthy eating and exercise
It’s been undoubtedly stressful for everyone. This has forced everyone to slow down, and that’s not a bad thing. Hopefully this can be a healthy reset on all of our priorities.
*The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is an independent organization that provides health information you may find helpful.
This article contains links to third party sites. Those organizations are solely responsible for the contents and privacy policies of their sites.
- Notice of COVID-19 Benefit Plan Changes
Due to COVID-19, we've made benefit changes to your policy starting March 12, 2020. These temporary changes will remain in effect until the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency period. Read the official notice.
- Prior Authorization
BlueCross and BlueChoice to Cover Member Cost for COVID-19 Test and Waive Prior Authorizations When Prescribed by Health Providers
March 11, 2020
BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina and BlueChoice® HealthPlan of South Carolina will cover testing to diagnose COVID-19 for its members when medically necessary and prescribed by health providers. Any subsequent needed care will be done in close coordination with federal, state and public health authorities.
The health insurers will cover members’ copays, co-insurance and deductibles to diagnose COVID-19 when consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, and where it is not covered as part of the Public Health Service response.
In addition, the companies will waive prior authorizations for diagnostic tests and for covered services that are medically necessary and consistent with CDC guidance for members diagnosed with COVID-19.
The organizations are closely monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic situation and working closely with state agencies. “The health and well-being of our members remains our highest priority,” said Matthew Bartels, M.D., vice president and chief medical officer at BlueCross. “We want to remove worry for members around testing coverage questions and reinforce that members who need to be tested for COVID-19 can do so.”
Members who have questions about their coverage should call the number on the back of their ID Cards.
The CDC has made test kits available for the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Public Health Laboratory to test for COVID-19. At this time, testing in South Carolina must be coordinated through SCDHEC.
Individuals who are concerned that they may have the virus are encouraged to call their health care providers. Additional reliable information is available through the SCDHEC Care Line at 855-472-3432, the SCDHEC website at scdhec.gov/COVID19, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control are independent organizations that offer health information you may find helpful.
- Lost Coverage
Have You Lost Health Insurance Due to a COVID-19-Related Job Loss?
If you have lost coverage with your employer due to the events of COVID-19, you may be eligible to enroll in health insurance right now.
At BlueChoice HealthPlan, there are a variety of plans available to meet your needs.
With more than 30 years of experience serving members throughout South Carolina, we offer affordable plan options that provide more value, more benefits and more options, including:
- All-inclusive, comprehensive copayment on select plans that covers all services at participating providers offices
- Enhanced adult and pediatric vision coverage
- Dental coverage
- $0 primary care visits on select plans
- Doctors Care visits for the same cost as a primary care visits, saving members money when an ER visit is unnecessary
- Annual Plans for those who have a Qualifying Life Event for a Special Enrollment Period. If you find a plan that meets your needs, make sure to submit the supporting documentation required.
Check out our available plans here.
Call us at 855-433-2132 and we will be happy to speak with you about your coverage options.
If you think you may be getting sick, use a symptom checker and get more information to help guide your health care decisions. Learn more.
See a doctor without leaving home. If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptons, you can consult with a health care professional by phone or video chat. Check out your options.
Prevent the spread of germs. Frequent handwashing and limiting contact with others can help limit the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses. Learn more about how to avoid germs.
Keep Up to Date on the Latest Information
The news on COVID-19 is changing rapidly. And there is a lot of misinformation out there. For the latest information on COVID-19, we recommend that you turn to trusted public health organizations such as:
Watch Now: Our chief medical officer, Dr. Matthew Bartels, shares answers to the most common questions and clinical guidance related to COVID-19.
Frequently Asked Questions
Members can call the customer service number on the back of their ID cards for benefit-related questions.
- What is the new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)?
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a new coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that may cause illness in people. The name of this new respiratory disease is coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19.
- What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Symptoms may also include chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and new loss of taste or sense of smell. These symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus. This list is not all-inclusive. Please consult your medical provider about any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.
- How dangerous is this virus?
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention* (CDC), COVID-19 can affect anyone and can cause symptoms ranging from mild to very severe. People with high risk factors and underlying health conditions — such as heart disease, lung disease and diabetes — may be more likely to need hospitalization if they have COVID-19.
- How is the virus passed from one person to another?
Someone who is actively infected with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others even if he or she has no symptoms.
The virus spreads from one person to another through respiratory droplets. These droplets are produced when someone with the illness coughs, sneezes or talks. The droplets can be inhaled, land in the mouths or noses of people nearby and can persist for up to a couple of days on some surfaces. It generally takes close (less than 6 feet away) contact to become infected.
- How can I prevent the spread of the coronavirus or other respiratory viruses?
The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. To limit virus exposure, the CDC recommends that you:
- Maintain good social distance (at least 6 feet) from others and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face covering when around others.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place, after going to the bathroom; before eating or preparing food ; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
- Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
Helpful How To Flyers:
- What should I do if I may have been exposed to or think I am sick with COVID-19?
If you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as a cough or difficulty breathing, or if you have been in close contact with a person sick with COVID-19, contact your doctor before you attempt to see anyone in person. You can tell your health care provider your symptoms and he or she can give you instructions on how to get your medical needs addressed while minimizing the risk of exposure to yourself and others.
There currently is no cure for this virus, so managing mild symptoms at home may be your best option to prevent further spread of the disease. Of course, should you have life-threatening symptoms such as trouble breathing, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. If possible, put on a face mask before seeking emergency medical care.
- Could my prescription be impacted? Can I buy more than my usual refill limit to get them filled early?
BlueChoice is closely monitoring any potential medication access issues to make sure our members get the medications they need in a timely manner.
BlueChoice members who have mail-order pharmacy benefits are encouraged to consider using them. For members who have concerns about running out of medications we recommend they first contact their doctor or pharmacist. Members can call the customer service number on the back of their ID cards for benefit-related questions.
- Are the coronavirus test and treatment covered under my insurance?
If you have COVID-19 symptoms or if you have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for the virus, your doctor can order a medically necessary test at no cost to our members.
Any coronavirus testing not ordered by your doctor or that is not medically necessary will not be covered under your insurance. Public health and employment return to work testing are not considered medically necessary and will not be covered.
BlueChoice has waived all out-of-pocket costs for in-network COVID-19 medical treatment for members.
- Are there any prior authorizations required for COVID-19 treatment?
BlueChoice has waived prior authorization for diagnostic tests and related services for members diagnosed with COVID-19. These tests and services must follow CDC guidelines.
Helpful How To Flyers: