Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia to Provide First Dollar Coverage of H1N1 Vaccine for All Members

/PRNewswire/ -- Each year, influenza causes illness, hospitalizations and deaths, and severely strains the health care delivery system. This year, seasonal flu is complicated by the emergence and rapid spread of the H1N1 virus. In an effort to ensure that individuals and their families can take the appropriate actions to help protect themselves against the H1N1 virus, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia (BCBSGA) will cover the administration of the H1N1 vaccine without co-pay or deductible for all of its members. BCBSGA is also are encouraging self-insured employers to cover the cost of the vaccination for their employees.

"At BCBSGA, our priority is to ensure that our actions and communications support public health," said Dr. Bob McCormack, BCBSGA medical director. "Our goal is to keep our members as healthy as possible. We are committed to working with the CDC and HHS on an information campaign to ensure that members and the public are vaccinated to prevent H1N1, and if they develop H1N1 flu, they are treated effectively and appropriately."

Since a significant proportion of the vaccine is likely to be administered through non-traditional providers such as pharmacies, retail clinics and public health clinics, BCBSGA is currently working to complete agreements with these providers to increase access to the H1N1 vaccine. In addition, the antiviral medications Tamiflu and Relenza will move to an economical tier in plan formularies.

The CDC has recommended that certain populations receive the 2009 H1N1 vaccine when it becomes available. Initial prioritization includes pregnant women, people who live with or care for children younger than six months of age, children and young adults from 6 months to 24 years old, and people from 25 through 64 years old if they have chronic medical conditions that increase their risk of complications from influenza infection.

The CDC also recommends people take common-sense steps like washing your hands frequently; covering your mouth with your arm when you cough and sneeze; and staying home when you are sick to help protect others from the flu.

"The U.S. health care system has a responsibility to achieve maximal vaccination and effective treatment of H1N1 flu and its emerging risks, and we are eager to do our part to be sure that populations at high risk are immunized against this virus," said Monye Connolly, president, BCBSGA.

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