Additional Help for Wildfire Victims

Once again our neighbors and friends may be suffering the effects of wildfires and may need help. Medical issues are particularly difficult for those who have evacuated and may not have their medications or only a small supply. Respiratory illnesses are exacerbated by smoke and poor air quality are common issues during these times.

There are a couple of resources that may be helpful.

Teledoc is offering residents of the evacuation zones in California access to their services free of charge.

Teladoc doctors can diagnose and treat common conditions, including sinus problems, respiratory infection, allergies, cold and flu symptoms and many other non-emergency illnesses. When medically necessary, they can also prescribe medication. They are not equipped to handle emergencies, so calling 911 continues to be the best option for emergencies.

These doctors are U.S. board-certified internists, state licensed family practitioners, and pediatricians licensed to practice medicine in the U.S. and living in the U.S. When you request a visit, you will be connected with a doctor licensed in your state.

To receive free general medical care during this time, they are requesting that you use the hotline 855-225-5032. You will be asked for registration information and a brief medical history before you’re able to request a visit, and your visit history will not be associated with any existing membership. If you contact them through your normal channels or existing membership, you will be charged the standard visit fee based on your eligibility.

Teladoc doctors do not issue prescriptions for substances controlled by the DEA, non-therapeutic, and/or certain other drugs which may be harmful because of their potential for abuse. Also, non-therapeutic drugs such as Viagra and Cialis are not prescribed by them.

This is going to be problematic for anyone taking controlled substances, particularly because physicians are very careful now about issuing these, particularly to someone who is not a current patient. To see a list of controlled substances: https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/schedules/index.html. Typically if the prescription is written in triplicate, it is a controlled substance. Eligible members that register through the hotline will need to re-register with their existing group account to use Teladoc in the future.

UPDATE:  I have been informed that since a State of Emergency has been declared in Butte County there are special circumstance that allow physician to provide emergency refills without some of the restrictions.  More information here.

Blue Shield of California (BSCA) sent out the following information for their members:

  • BSCA is allowing for the immediate refill of prescriptions for members in mandatory evacuation zones, even if they are not yet due to be refilled. (They did not specify how controlled substances will be handled)
  • The health plan is conducting outreach to affected members who are currently participating in a care management program to ensure continuity of care.
  • Magellan Health, the contracted managed care plan for behavioral health, is providing free access to resources, materials and counseling services through its dedicated hotline: 1-800-327-7451.
  • BSCA vision plan members in these counties can obtain a replacement pair of lost or broken glasses and can use out-of-network providers as needed with claims paid at in-network costs. Please contact Vision Customer Service for assistance, 877-601-9083.

Blue Shield of California members who need immediate assistance can contact customer service at 800-393-6130. ID cards can be reprinted at www.blueshieldca.com

Anthem Blue Cross is offering similar help as follows until December 9, 2018 (unless further extended):

  • Relaxing time limits for prior authorization, pre-certification and referral requirements.
  • Suspending early refill limits for prescriptions.
  • Allowing replacement of medical equipment or supplies.
  • Extending filing deadlines for claims.

These relaxed benefits do not apply to Anthem insured under Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement, Medicare Part D members, as those programs have specific guidelines.

Anthem’s EAP provides resources that are available to all residents of Butte, Los Angeles and Ventura counties that have been impacted by the wild fires. These services are available to help with emotionally stressful situations as well as with financial and legal concerns. Anthem’s EAP tools will be offered at no cost and will be available 24/7 through the EAP crisis line by visiting www.anthemeap.com and using the login code “cawildfires.”

If you are insured by another company, contact the customer service number on your card to inquire what additional help may be available.

Margaret R. Beck

Margaret Beck CLU, ChFC, CEBS started her insurance practice in Redding in 1978. She is the founder of Affiliated Benefit Services where businesses and individuals are assisted in choosing proper products, compliance with complex benefit laws and claims issues once coverage is placed.

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