CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How Members' Benefits Will Work
COVID-19 testing, treatment and vaccines
HealthLink provides access to a network of doctors, hospitals and other healthcare facilities as part of a members' health plan. We do not make benefit and coverage decisions for the plan. We recommend that all clients follow federal mandates, as well as any state mandates that apply. The federal CARES Act requires most health plans to cover the COVID-19 vaccine and its administration at $0 member cost share during the national public health emergency. We are recommending that members contact their employer or benefit administrator to confirm the $0 cost share for vaccination; and to confirm coverage for COVID-19 testing and treatment.
HealthLink State of Illinois health plan members: COVID-19 diagnostic test and exam: Covered at 100%; no member cost share. This benefit is effective through January 11, 2023. COVID-19 treatment: if you are diagnosed with COVID-19, your treatment will be covered at 100%, with no member cost share. This benefit is effective through January 11, 2023. COVID-19 Vaccine: Covered at 100%; no member cost share. This benefit is effective through January 11, 2023. You can also visit a doctor from home: LiveHealth Online: Covered at 100%; no member cost share. Members can visit LiveHealth Online or download the LiveHealth Online app to start a video visit with a board-certified doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist. This benefit is effective through January 11, 2023. Telehealth services:This benefit is effective through January 11, 2023. Telehealth services through electronic or telephonic method include medical consults, psychiatry, mental health treatment, substance use disorder treatment and related services.through electronic or telephonic methods. This includes medical consults, psychiatry, mental health treatment, substance use disorder treatment and related services.
- In-network providers - Covered at 100%, no member cost share.
- Out-of-network providers - subject to the same plan benefits as if they were rendered in an office setting; members will be responsible for any out-of-pocket expenses.
About Coronavirus and COVID-19
What is coronavirus and COVID-19?
Coronavirus is a type of virus that causes respiratory illness - an infection of the airways and lungs. COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus. It's part of the same family of coronaviruses that includes the common cold.
What are the symptoms?
The most common early symptoms appear between 2 and 14 days after being infected. Symptoms can be mild to severe. They include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
How does the virus spread?
Medical experts think that COVID-19 spreads from person-to-person through close contact, a cough, sneeze or kiss. However, since COVID-19 is a new disease, scientists around the globe are racing to learn more about it.
Prevention and Treatment
How to prevent infection
The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19. Check the CDC website for up-to-date information. If traveling, visit the CDC travel page for most current travel guidelines.
Good health habits can also help prevent and fight COVID-19.
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water aren't available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when sick. This includes staying home from work, school, errands, and travel for at least 24 hours after a fever is gone.
- Cover a cough or sneeze with a tissue, throw the tissue in the trash, and wash hands.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces like phones, keyboards, and doorknobs.
- Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, drink lots of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
Do individuals need to wear a facemask?
What if individuals are sick with COVID-19?
Individuals exposed to COVID-19 who develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or difficulty breathing, should contact their doctor immediately. To help prevent the disease from spreading to people in the community, follow these CDC recommendations.
Janssen/Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine
On Feb. 26, 2021, the FDA granted an Emergency Use Authorization for the COVID-19 vaccine produced by Janssen/Johnson & Johnson for prevention of COVID-19 infection in people 18 years or older. The decision was based on a large clinical trial that showed a single dose of this vaccine significantly reduced the risk of getting moderate to severe symptomatic COVID-19 infection compared to placebo. The vaccine works well in both older and younger adults but is still being studied in those under age 18.
As of Tuesday, April 13, the CDC and FDA have recommended a pause in the use of the vaccine out of an abundance of caution. A handful of cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot have been reported in people after receiving the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine and are being investigated. As of April 13, 2021, no cases had been reported among the more than 180 million people who received the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.
The CDC's website has more information about the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, including information about a very small number of reports of a rare and severe type of blood clot happening in people who have received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. Members who have questions about COVID-19 vaccines, should talk to their doctor.
Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine
On Dec. 11, 2020, the FDA granted an Emergency Use Authorization for the COVID-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer/BioNTech for prevention of COVID-19 infection in people 16 years or older. The decision was based on a large clinical trial that showed that two doses of this vaccine significantly reduced the risk of getting mild to severe symptomatic COVID-19 infection compared to placebo. The vaccine works well in both older and younger adults but is still being studied in children and adolescents under age 16 years.
Moderna COVID-19 vaccine
On Dec. 18, 2020, the FDA granted an Emergency Use Authorization for the COVID-19 vaccine produced by Moderna for prevention of COVID-19 infection in people 18 and older. The decision was based on a large clinical trial that showed two doses of this vaccine significantly reduced the risk of getting mild to severe symptomatic COVID-19 infection compared to placebo. The vaccine works well in both older and younger adults but is still being studied in those under age 18.
How will vaccines be distributed?
The CDC has recommendations about how vaccines should be phased in for all populations, but each state will have the ability to make some decisions about the distribution of vaccines based on their own circumstances. State health departments have their own information. Here's a link that leads to the states' plans and to the National Academy for State Health Policy.
The CDC is working closely with state, tribal, local, and territorial health departments to make sure vaccines are available to communities once large supplies are available. Several vaccines are in development and it is likely more than one will be approved, however they may get approved at different times. Widespread availability will also depend up on manufacturing capacity.
How can I find a COVID-19 vaccine?
Members can go to this page on the CDC web site and scroll down to the section entitled, "What you can do right now" to find COVID-19 vaccines near them.
When will COVID-19 vaccines be available for children?
The vaccines have yet to be tested in children under 12. Trials in teens started in late 2020. Children don't typically get vaccines until they are tested in children, FDA approved and authorized by the CDC and ACIP for their age group. The CDC lists authorized age groups for vaccines here.
Can pregnant or breastfeeding individuals receive the COVID-19 vaccine?
How do I know the new COVID-19 vaccines are safe once available?
Government and private companies are working together to develop safe and effective vaccines. Researchers are using past research on similar viruses and combining resources to reduce the time it historically has taken to research, develop, and produce vaccines. Many thousands of people of varying age, race, ethnicity, and different medical conditions have participated in the trials to see how effective and safe they are. The FDA and outside experts carefully review all of the clinical trial data when weighing approval of any new drug or vaccine. When the FDA has approved a vaccine for emergency use, the FDA has determined that the benefits of a vaccine outweigh the risk.
Why should I get a COVID-19 vaccine once one is available for me specifically?
A safe and effective vaccine will help reduce the chance that you get sick from COVID-19, and may help to reduce the spread of the virus, in turn, helping to conserve healthcare resources and help a return to more normal day-to-day activities, including work and school. Many thousands of people of varying age, race, ethnicity, and different medical conditions have participated in the clinical trials to see how effective and safe COVID-19 vaccines are. Illness from this virus can be severe in some people, leading to hospitalization and potentially, death. If you have questions or concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine, talk to your healthcare provider. When the FDA has authorized a vaccine for emergency use, the FDA has determined that the benefits of a vaccine outweigh the risk.
Is it possible to transmit the virus even after vaccination?
While the vaccine can eliminate symptoms in individuals, it's not yet clear that getting the vaccine will reduce someone's ability to still transmit an infection, even if they don't have symptoms. Information on whether the vaccine can prevent asymptomatic COVID-19 infections and the ability to spread the infection may be available early next year. As it is possible to have COVID-19 without knowing it, to avoid giving it to others, vaccinated people should continue to wear a mask, wash their hands frequently and observe social distancing.
Do fully vaccinated people still need to follow COVID-19 guidelines on masks and social distancing?
The CDC has developed guidance for fully vaccinated people that will be continue to be updated. Please go here for the latest information.
Will the COVID-19 vaccines protect against variants to the virus?
The CDC is following that issue closely. To learn more, go here.
Can a member get the vaccine if they have already had COVID-19?
Yes, people can get the vaccine if they've already had the infection. Because some evidence suggests that people previously infected can be re-infected, they may benefit from vaccination. For this reason, vaccination should be offered to people regardless of history of prior symptomatic or asymptomatic COVID-19 infection.
Safety and Preparedness
What is HealthLink doing in response to COVID-19?
HealthLink is monitoring COVID-19 developments and what they mean for our associates and those we serve. We are fielding questions about the outbreak from our customers, members, providers, and associates. Additionally, our clinical team is actively monitoring external queries and reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help us determine what, if any, action is necessary on our part to further support our stakeholders. HealthLink has a business continuity plan for serious communicable disease outbreaks, inclusive of pandemics, and is deploying the plan as necessary.
Does HealthLink have a business continuity plan?
HealthLink maintains a comprehensive enterprise wide business continuity program that aligns business requirements of our operating units and related support areas to help us meet our commitments following an "unplanned event." This plan includes strategies for a "People Unavailable" event, including a pandemic, to help us continue critical business processes to meet our customer commitments. Response to and mitigation of such an event can include working from home capability, increased personal hygiene and additional building hygiene measures and frequency, travel restrictions, isolation of personnel, and limiting access to and travel between our facilities. All of this is documented in established policies and procedures to support crisis response measures, such as during a pandemic threat.
Is HealthLink encouraging broader use of telehealth assuming the virus spreads?
We are recommending members use telehealth when they can, as it prevents them from spreading a virus and can help protect them from getting a virus while waiting with others at a physical facility.
How can HealthLink ensure that contracted providers can still provide services during the COVID-19?
HealthLink is committed to making sure your employees can get the care they need. We're working closely with the doctors and other healthcare professionals in our network to ensure they can continue to handle more calls and visits. If your employees' doctors aren't available for some reason, we'll help them find alternate care. Employees can use the Find a Doctor tool on HealthLink.com or call 800-624-2356 to find a doctor near them.
What can employers do?
Employers should check the CDC page for interim guidance for businesses and employers for information on strategies that can be used to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep employees safe.
Can HealthLink provide my company with information regarding COVID-19 cases within our member population?
Applicable law limits HealthLink's ability to share an individual's protected health information with an employer absent an authorization or certain extenuating circumstances. As a result, HealthLink is limited by law in its ability to disclose individual's protected health information to an employer.
HIPAA permits limited disclosure of protected health information to group health plan representatives if:
- The requestor is a group health plan representative and,
- The purpose of the request is related to the operations of the health plan.
Under the current circumstances, information regarding COVID diagnoses is unlikely to relate to the health plan's operations. Nevertheless, when receiving such requests, we will inquire about the nature of the request and the requestor's role to determine what protected health information, if any can be disclosed.
Most importantly, HealthLink may not have records indicating any affirmative medical diagnosis. We recommend that employer groups concerned about the virus work with relevant regional and national public health authorities to remain apprised of any developments.
Can an employer receive information on the number of claims - but not specific names - for COVID-19 tests and related services?
No. Currently, it may be possible to identify someone specifically even if, for example, their name is not shared. We recommend checking in with local health authorities to understand the total number of cases in any given area.
Why is it important to refer to the CDC for questions related to COVID-19?
The COVID-19 outbreak is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation and CDC provides updated information as it becomes available, in addition to updated guidance.
The CDC is an official, public and national source of information and acts as a clearinghouse for information and reporting on infectious disease as it is constantly evolving. As part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, its mission is to protect America from health, safety and security threats, both foreign and in the United States.