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One of the joys of vacation travel is taking a break from the news. The fact that our small hotel at the Fitzroy National Park Island had internet only in the lobby area, helped us disconnect to some degree. Our plane to Australia had a surprisingly low occupancy and about 25% of the passengers were wearing masks. We picked up the news about some of the coronavirus spread, but it was not until we returned home, did the level of concern seem more apparent.
Upon our arrival in San Francisco, one of our relatives was clearly reticent to have us or our bags spend much time in the house. (No, it’s not an in-law thing!). He is a research scientist and head of toxicology for a large pharmaceutical company. The fact that he understands the science of virus transmission makes him acutely aware of the process. Those of us that do not study cells on a daily basis are often blissfully ignorant. We can visualize the virus from the pictures, but a scientist sees those little pronged critters in a far different way.
With over 1000 cases in the US and 37 deaths, we are clearly in the early stages of the outbreak. By now, most of us have heard all the precautionary methods we should employ such as frequent and complete handwashing, stop touching our faces, avoid crowds, cough into a tissue or the inside of your shirt rather than your elbow or hands. I was surprised to learn that the electric hand-drying blowers are not encouraged, because they tend to spread air-born germs.
Most insurance carriers are actively participating in measures designed to help reduce the spread of the disease. They do not want costs to be a barrier to treatment or prevention.
Blue Shield of CA sent out a memo to all members stating that they will waive all cost-sharing and any prior approval for COVID-19 testing prescribed by a physician, for members living in CA and out of state. This includes cost-sharing for hospital, urgent care, emergency room, and office visits where the visit is to screen or test for the virus. They will not require prior authorization for medically necessary emergency care, which is consistent with the current practice of the company.
Self-funded groups will be handled in the same way, unless the employer chooses to opt out of the program.
It is also important to remember that many of the health plans include a Teledoc option. This provides prompt access to a primary care physician without having to wait or sit in a crowded office with lots of sick people. This benefit is going to be that much more valuable under the current circumstances.
Medicare covers the lab tests for COVID-19 — you pay no out-of-pocket costs. Medicare also covers all medically necessary physician visits and hospitalizations, subject to deductibles and co-insurance.
The National Institutes of Health has selected the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute to launch the first clinical trial of an experimental coronavirus vaccine.
Since there is currently no vaccine for this virus, prevention is going to be the only real protection available. This is an important time to remind readers about the value of vaccines that are available and proven to be safe, particularly those for childhood diseases, such as measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) and polio.
In the 1950’s polio was one of the most feared diseases in the country and the world. According to NPR, “In 1952 alone, nearly 60,000 children were infected with the virus; thousands were paralyzed, and more than 3,000 died. Hospitals set up special units with iron lung machines to keep polio victims alive.” Lest those numbers sound small, remember that the US population in 1955 was about half of its current 330 million
Widespread vaccinations started in 1955, but the disease was not considered eradicated in the US until 1979. Our population was less mobile than it is today, so the value of vaccinations is that much more pronounced. While there continues to be widespread rumors about the safety of vaccines, I challenge our readers to dig deep into the real science behind the facts regarding vaccines. If this pandemic continues to grow, vaccination may well be of great interest to the population. In the meantime, we can protect our children and our neighbors’ children from a whole host of serious diseases.