In an effort to provide support through the COVID-19 pandemic, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota (BCBSND) is ensuring members will have free access to COVID-19 vaccines when available. The federal government has indicated they will cover the cost of the vaccine and BCBSND will cover administration costs associated with the vaccine, resulting in no charge for the member. In addition, BCBSND is extending its expanded benefits for the testing and treatment of COVID-19 through March 31, 2021, which is a unique offering by a health payer in the state.
“High vaccination rates are crucial for getting through this pandemic and removing any financial barriers to receiving the vaccine is right thing to do for our members,” shared BCBSND president and CEO Dan Conrad. “Now more than ever, we encourage all North Dakotans to receive both the influenza vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine, once available.”
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization, and death. Getting a flu vaccine can also save health care resources for the care of patients with COVID-19.
Both vaccines are available to all members at no charge. COVID vaccine coverage will be available for any vaccine that receives emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“Initially, if a person receives a vaccination from their health provider, the federal government will cover the cost of a COVID vaccine and BCBSND will cover member costs related to its administration. After government-funded vaccines are exhausted, BCBSND will cover both the cost of the vaccine and its administration,” shared Dr. Greg Glasner, BCBSND Chief Medical Officer. “This is a direct cost we are absorbing to support enhanced vaccination rates.”
While the federal government is mandating these vaccine coverages for Federal Marketplace plans, BCBSND has independently decided to extend these coverages to all lines of business, including grandfathered plans. Exclusions may apply for some self-funded plans.
As some carriers discontinue waivers and extended coverage, BCBSND remains committed to expanded COVID-19 coverage and benefits through March 31, 2021, including:
Waiving out-of-pocket costs for the treatment of COVID-19, including hospital stays and outpatient treatment. This applies to fully insured members and self-funded plans that have opted in.
Waiving out-of-pocket costs for medically necessary laboratory COVID-19 testing. Cost-shares will be waived for an in-network provider office visit, urgent care center visit, or emergency room visit when testing for COVID-19. This applies to fully insured members and self-funded plans.
Allowing pharmacies to refill prescriptions earlier than typically allowed, and most plans allow members to fill maintenance medications for up to a 90-day supply through local or mail-order pharmacies.
Offering online benefits to members including access to:
Learn to Live
Waiving cost-shares on telehealth visits for all services (not just COVID-19 related visits) when members seek care from in-network providers or our telehealth provider, Amwell. This applies to fully insured members and self-funded plans that have opted in.
“While the vaccine is an important step in containing the spread of COVID-19, it is not the end of the pandemic story,” says Dr. Glasner. BCBSND is also looking at the long-tail disease burden due to deferred preventive care and disease management.
“It’s much more effective to monitor and treat someone with diabetes than to put that person on dialysis. Likewise, it’s much easier to do a colonoscopy than to treat colon cancer,” Dr. Glasner says. He also suspects North Dakota will see the real disease burden after the pandemic because preventive health screenings are also down.
According to health care researcher, Advisory Board, through May 2020, there were 89% fewer breast cancer screenings and 85% fewer colorectal cancer screenings compared to the year before. “Preventive care, disease management and self-care are more important now than ever before,” Dr. Glasner says.
Please visit www.BCBSND.com/coronavirus for detailed coverage information and programming details.