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H1N1 Flu Advisory

H1N1 Facts You Need
H1N1 Vaccine and Your Benefits Coverage
Is BCBSTX Prepared?
Frequently Asked Questions

H1N1 Facts You Need

H1N1 is expected to be a serious threat this flu season and its vaccine will be in limited supply. All regions of the U.S. have now reported positive cases of the H1N1 flu.

H1N1 (referred to as "swine flu" early on) is a new strain of the influenza virus spreading from person-to-person, probably in much the same way that regular seasonal influenza viruses spread. H1N1 is expected to be a serious threat this flu season and its vaccine will be in limited supply.

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H1N1 Vaccine and Your Benefits Coverage

Still, we want to ensure our members get the care they need. As a result, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas (BCBSTX) has implemented steps to provide coverage for the administration of the H1N1 (swine flu) vaccine for our members.

The federal government has said that the vaccine will be provided at no cost to health care providers, so your only out-of-pocket cost would be for the administration of the fee and any office visit copays, diagnostic testing and the like. If you are a member in an insured group plan or an individual policy, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas (BCBSTX) has implemented a policy to cover the administration cost of the H1N1 vaccine. The fee will not be applied against your deductible or coinsurance, and you will not be charged a copay for the shot administration.

If your plan does not currently cover the administration of the vaccine, and your employer notifies us of their intent not to cover the vaccine in the future, your vaccination will be handled as part of your normal benefits. You can call the number on the back of your Member ID card for more information on your benefits coverage.

In order to benefit from this special coverage, we encourage you to use a provider in the BCBSTX provider network. If you use a provider that is not in the BCBSTX network, your normal benefit coverage will apply.

BCBSTX will coordinate its efforts with federal and state authorities to ensure the widest possible administration of the vaccine in an effort to mitigate the potential consequences of an H1N1 pandemic.

Based on its analysis of current situation, The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has recommended prioritizing the following population segments to receive the vaccine:

  1. Pregnant women
  2. People who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age
  3. Healthcare and emergency medical services personnel
  4. Persons between the ages of 6 months through 24 years
  5. People ages 25 through 64 years who have chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems.

BCBSTX encourages you to take measures now and throughout the flu season to prevent getting sick. Continue to rely on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more information about the H1N1 flu. The CDC has many tips and resources on its Website, located at www.pandemicflu.gov/index.html.

If you have any medical questions or concerns, we encourage you to talk to your physician.

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Is BCBSTX Prepared?

When disaster strikes, the potential for a significant business impact is real and immediate.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas (BCBSTX) is well prepared should the growing novel influenza A (H1N1) flu outbreak challenge our ability to fulfill vital service needs of our groups, members and health professionals.

Our Business Continuity Plans are designed to address a broad array of disruptive events that could pose a threat to our business operations or result in a business interruption.

In fact, our business operations are founded on the concept of business continuity as a way of doing business everyday. The structure and connectivity of our people, facilities, data and technology resources is designed to allow us to react to a broad range of disruptive events affecting our business operations. Continuity protocols are built into every relationship we have with suppliers, vendors and business partners.

To maintain consistency, Blue Cross has aligned its planning and response objectives to the strategies of the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, and the Department of Health and Human Services. Any and all activities will be guided by and coordinated with federal, state and local initiatives.

At BCBSTX, we understand that our groups and members look to us during situations that threaten the health and well being of employees and their families. We are committed to delivering exceptional service throughout this public health crisis.

Additional Resources:

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Frequently Asked Questions

How Does H1N1 Flu Differ from Seasonal Flu?

Influenza of any kind has the potential to be deadly, and is monitored closely by public health organizations worldwide. This novel influenza A (H1N1) flu outbreak is of particular concern because this strain appears to be highly contagious and is spreading rapidly. Also, anytime a new strain of the flu develops, it can spread fast because people don't have a natural immunity, current vaccinations aren't effective and new vaccines can take months to develop.

While current influenza medications can ease the symptoms and severity of an individual episode, measures at the community, state, country and worldwide levels are being required to contain the spread of the virus. Availability of enough medication and health care resources to treat the number of cases in various regions is another driving factor in the way public health and government officials are responding.

How Can I Tell if I Have H1N1 Flu?

H1N1 flu has symptoms that are similar to seasonal influenza (type A). These symptoms generally include cough, sore throat, fever, chills, headache, fatigue, sometimes nausea and diarrhea. If you have ever had the flu before, you'll recognize the symptoms right away. However, having flu symptoms does not automatically mean you have swine flu. The only way to know for sure is to complete a lab test.

If you have flu symptoms or are suffering from any kind of persistent respiratory infection, we urge you to quickly seek medical attention. Not only are you at risk of becoming seriously ill, you increase the chance of spreading the virus to others if you continue your daily routines of work, school, family and social activities.

Am I at Risk of Getting H1N1 Flu?

Because this is a variant strain of influenza A, you should not assume you are immune, even if you have had a flu shot. Everyone is encouraged to take preventive steps to decrease exposure to contagions and prevent spreading the virus to others.

H1N1 flu worsens pre-existing medical conditions in people, so people with already compromised immune systems are at increased risk of dying as a result of contracting the flu and should take extra precautions.

View some recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO)

What Ways Might I Be Exposed to H1N1 Flu?

Rumors and myths abound, but you can blame the usual suspects when it comes to passing along the virus. Human-to-human contact is the leading path of infection. The virus can become airborne through coughing and sneezing, and the virus can live for two hours or longer on things an infected person touches, such as door handles, desks, telephones and restaurant tables.

How Is H1N1 Flu Treated?

Early diagnosis provides the most and best options for effective treatment. Anti-viral medicines Tamiflu and Relenza work best if taken within two days of developing symptoms, because they prevent the virus from reproducing inside the body. Anti-viral medications can also lessen the severity of the symptoms. If flu symptoms are accompanied by a respiratory or sinus infection, an antibiotic will also be prescribed.

View some recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO)

What Should I Do?

During normal business hours, we recommend you start with a call to your physician's office. From first signs of symptoms to severe illness onset, your physician can determine what plan of treatment is warranted. If you do not have an existing relationship with a physician, other options include neighborhood urgent care clinics and hospital-based minor emergency clinics. A trip to a hospital emergency center should be considered a last resort, so that emergency centers can focus staff and resources on the seriously ill.

As always, if you are concerned about the immediate safety of yourself or a loved one, particularly a small child or very elderly, call your local emergency medical services (911) first.

View some recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO)

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