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Coronavirus Information

This article will be updated with new information as it becomes available. Last updated 4/2 with new service and symptoms chart.

Tufts Health Plan has activated its Pandemic Planning work group, established to respond to public health issues and crises. The group meets regularly as it continuously prepares to respond to changing events. It is monitoring and following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), State Public Health Departments (CT, NH, MA, RI) and other official sources on an ongoing basis.

New service helps identify symptoms

Tufts Health Plan members can use Buoy, a free web-based tool to check your symptoms, determine if you should be tested for coronavirus, and learn about the care options available to you. In addition, you can use Buoy to get prevention tips and connect with a free telemedicine provider. Buoy is officially partnered with the State of Massachusetts. To access Buoy, go to: buoy.com/mass.

What we are doing to help

Tufts Health Plan is committed to making sure you have access to the health care services you need throughout the current coronavirus outbreak. To make it easier to get services related to the coronavirus, there will be no member copays for testing, counseling, and initial treatment of the coronavirus.  

Specifically, the following changes are effective March 6, 2020, through April 15, 2020. We will continually examine these changes as circumstances evolve:

Waiving member costs

  • There are no out-of-pocket costs for medically necessary diagnostic and other testing and counseling related to the coronavirus. This coverage applies at in-network providers, urgent care centers, emergency rooms and other facilities, and at out-of-network providers in the event a member cannot easily find an in-network provider to provide timely services.
  • No out-of-pocket costs for medically necessary treatment related to a diagnosis of the coronavirus. This coverage applies at in-network providers, urgent care centers, emergency rooms and other facilities, and at out-of-network providers in the event a member cannot easily find an in-network provider to provide timely services. 
  • In addition, we are also removing prior authorization requirements related to new diagnoses and treatments of the coronavirus or the risk of coronavirus contraction. This will make it easier for you to get the care you need without delay.

Drug refills

We are making it easier for you to get increased access to the prescription drugs you need:

  • You can refill prescription medication early without waiting to finish your current fill.
  • You can refill up to a 90-day supply, to the extent consistent with clinical guidelines.
  • Controlled substances are excluded from this policy (subject to CMS rules).

Telehealth services

Many providers offer telehealth services. Telehealth services can help members avoid contact with the coronavirus by reducing the need to visit your provider’s office.

  • There are no copayments for telehealth visits for all medical, behavioral, and ancillary health visits whether or not related to the coronavirus. This includes telephone consultations so that you do not have to leave your house to receive care. Please contact your PCP or other in-network providers for information on the types of telehealth care they can provide. If your PCP or other in-network providers do not offer telehealth care, you may request approval from your PCP to see an out-of-network provider that offers telehealth care. 

Prescription drug information applies to members who have prescription drug coverage included with their plan. 

What to do about upcoming medical appointments

While coronavirus is a new and immediate threat, it’s not the only one. It is still important to take care of any chronic medical problems to prevent them from getting worse. However, talk to your doctor to see if any upcoming appointments can be postponed, handled by telehealth, or rescheduled. Many doctors are cancelling non-essential appointments. If you have an upcoming appointment, call your doctor’s office to confirm it is still scheduled.

Taking precautions against coronavirus for older adults

People with chronic medical problems, and those over age 65, are at increased risk of getting serious complications from the coronavirus. There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease. Taking preventive actions is the best way to avoid contracting the virus.

Preventive measures include:

  • Staying home as much as possible.
  • Avoiding unnecessary contact with other people (for example, don’t shake hands).
  • Avoiding crowds, especially in poorly ventilated spaces.
  • Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (use alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available).
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue.

The importance of washing your hands

Hand-washing is one of the easiest ways you can help prevent illness. It is especially important to wash your hands:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food.
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick.
  • After using the bathroom.
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste.

Remember that surfaces, including bathroom fixtures, such as toilet handles and sink faucets, can also transmit infection.

Are you washing your hands correctly? Follow these 5 steps for the most effective hand-washing technique to prevent the spread of germs.

5 steps to washing your hands correctly

  1. Wet your hands with clean running water, turn off the water, and apply soap.
  2. Rub your hands together with the soap, including the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean running water.
  5. Dry your hands with a clean towel, or air dry them.

How is it transmitted?

Coronavirus is primarily transmitted by coughing and sneezing by a person infected by the coronavirus. Surfaces touched by someone with the virus may potentially be infected. This is why it is important to wash your hands, use hand sanitizer, and avoid touching your face. In addition, it’s a good idea to avoid shaking hands and minimize your contact with public use surfaces (for example, by lifting the gas pump handle with a paper towel, or using your knuckle instead of your finger to turn off light switches).   

Is it necessary to wear a facemask?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves against coronavirus. The use of facemasks is recommended for health workers taking care of people in close settings or people who show symptoms of coronavirus to help prevent the spread of disease.

Is it ok to travel?

The CDC recommends avoiding nonessential travel. If you need to travel, take the basic prevention precautions listed above.

If I feel sick, how do I tell if it's coronavirus or a different infection?

Coronavirus is related to common cold viruses. Symptoms are sore throat, cough, and fever. Some patients can have vomiting. You cannot tell the difference between coronavirus and other, more common viruses based on symptoms. This strain of coronavirus may be more virulent (causes a more severe illness) than most cold viruses.

Coronavirus symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure. Call your doctor if you develop symptoms and have been in close contact with a person known to have coronavirus or if you recently traveled from an area with widespread cases of coronavirus. Please don’t just walk into your doctor’s office; they need to prepare for your arrival.

Prolonged vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches, and joint pains are not prominent features of coronavirus infection. If you have those symptoms in addition to cold symptoms, it's more likely that you have influenza, or "the flu". While it is recommended that you stay home if you have cold symptoms during this pandemic, you should call your doctor if you get symptoms that suggest the flu. Adults over age 65 or with other medical problems are at increased risk of complications from the flu. There are medications that reduce the severity of the flu if taken early enough. So you should call your doctor within a day of flu symptoms to see if it would be appropriate for you to get a prescription for antiviral medications.

This chart outlines the symptoms of the coronavirus, cold, and flu.

How to prepare

It’s important to take precautions in advance in case you are required to stay in your home for an extended period of time. General emergency preparedness includes: 

  • Having a supply of food staples, bottled water,  and household supplies like laundry detergent and bathroom items.
  • Making sure you have at least a 30-day supply of your prescription medications and other health supplies on hand, such as pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins.

For more information

We take the safety and well-being of our community, members, and employees very seriously. Given the coronavirus situation is changing daily, we request that you do not visit our office in person.

For the latest up-to-date information on the coronavirus, please visit the CDC website at cdc.gov/covid19

Also, the CDC provided this video with recommendations for older adults: