General

  • What is COVID-19?

    COVID-19 is a strain of coronavirus disease. In COVID-19, ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease. Formerly, this disease was referred to as “2019 novel coronavirus” or “2019-nCoV.”

    A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.

    There are many types of human coronaviruses including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. COVID-19 is a new disease, caused be a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans.

  • What are the symptoms of coronavirus? How do they differ from a cold, the flu, or allergies?

    The “tell-tale” symptoms of COVID 19 include

    • Fever (of 101 degree or more) and
    • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

    However, you may also experience:

    • Dry cough
    • Aches
    • Possible sore throat, fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
    • Conjunctivitis, or pink eye

    Unlike a cold, however, you probably won’t be sneezing, have a stuffy nose or watery eyes. Symptoms typically appear within 2-14 days of exposure.

  • How is the virus spread?

    The virus spreads through “respiratory droplets”—the moisture that comes from you when you sneeze, cough or speak. These can land on another person, be inhaled, or land on a hard surface—and if someone touches that surface and then touches their mouth, nose or eyes, they can become infected.

  • What is social distancing?

    Social distancing means reducing close contact among people to reduce the spread of infection or disease. In practice it may include limiting the size of groups of people, closing buildings and businesses and cancelling events and activities.

  • Why is social distancing important?

    The respiratory droplets that contain the infection are relatively heavy. Experts say a six-foot distance from others is a safe range.

    The less exposure we have to other people, and to surfaces which may have been infected, the better the chance we can avoid infection ourselves.

    Understand that you may not have symptoms but still be infectious—so can carry home to others who may be more susceptible.

  • What does “shelter in place” mean?

    Shelter in place means that you should not leave your home unless you are (1) buying groceries or health care supplies (e.g., picking up prescriptions, buying over the counter treatments), (2) seeking medical care, (3) providing assistance to an elderly or at risk neighbor or family member, (4) going to the bank or (5) going to work at an essential business.

    Shelter in place order are location-specific—for example, some orders allow you to go to a park or outdoors to exercise as long as you stay six feet away from others. And, each location can determine what an “essential business” is.

  • Will the virus stop when the weather is warmer?

    Probably not. Many cases have cropped up in areas with warmer climates, such as Singapore and Hong Kong. Also, coronaviruses are generally not seasonal, like the flu is, so may stick around longer.

  • Can this kill me?

    While it is unlikely, yes. The current mortality rate is estimated at around 3%,  but scientists and medical professionals don’t know for sure. We do know that at this time, the mortality rate is higher among the elderly and those who have other serious health conditions. Keep in mind that as more tests are run it’s quite likely that the mortality rate will drop—and that there is some question as to whether mortality rates are being accurately reported.

  • Where can I get current information?

    You can always go to the CDC website: www.cdc.gov or, specifically, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html. You should also call your state’s health department. Many (if not all ) states have a dedicated webpage for coronavirus information. Try searching on “your state” + coronavirus. And, you can continue to call or email us for up-to-date information

  • Can you get the virus from eating food made by someone who was sick?

    Probably not. For cooked food, heat likely inactivates the virus, though there hasn’t been a study looking at the specific temperatures and conditions.

    Of course there’s the concern that your delivery person who can’t afford to stay home has just touched the containers, so you should always wash your hands before eating.

     

Prevention and Protection

  • Are gloves a good way to protect myself?

    Gloves can be helpful—for example, if you are pumping gas or must use a shopping cart that hasn’t been sanitized. Keep in mind that the gloves themselves may well become contaminated. If you want to wear them, there are several points to remember:

    • Don’t touch your face when wearing them; if you are wearing them while shopping commit to buying something before you touch it (so you don’t inadvertently spread the virus throughout the store).
    • Don’t use your gloved hands to reach into your wallet or purse for your credit card—you may spread the virus to your belongings. Use your ungloved hand to access your form of payment; you can still use your gloved hand if you need to enter your PIN or sign for payment.
    • Remove the gloves as soon as you leave the building (or put the cart/gas pump away) by grasping them at the wrist and pulling them so they turn inside out, so you don’t touch contaminated surfaces. Dispose of the gloves properly in the nearest waste can (keep an empty plastic bag in your car just in case there isn’t a trash can nearby). DO NOT LEAVE THEM ON THE GROUND.

    While gloves may be helpful if someone in your household becomes sick, reducing the amount of times you have to wash your hands, the most effective intervention is just washing your hands.

  • How can I protect myself and my family from infection?

    There are many steps you can take:

    • Stay home (check with your local and/or state government—many locales are imposing their own restrictions as to where you can go, when). Even if you’re healthy, especially if you have ANY symptoms of a cold or flu—STAY HOME.
    • Try to stay healthy—eat well, exercise, get plenty of sleep
    • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. IF you can’t get to soap and water, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol will work. Wash them at the office, when you come home, before you eat, and any time you are touching hard surfaces.
    • Wear a cloth mask if you go out in public. This protects others from you if you are asymptomatic, and will prevent you from touching your face.
    • Keep away from others—practice social distancing (six feet away)
    • Cover your sneezes and coughs (with a tissue, your elbow, whatever) and wash your hands immediately afterwards.
    • Keep your hands away from your face
    • Get a flu shot—it might help minimize your symptoms if you get sick. If you’re age 65 or older, consider getting a pneumonia shot (it won’t protect from COVID-caused pneumonia, but could reduce other forms of pneumonia strains)
    • Wipe down countertops, door knobs, light switches and other frequently touched surfaces with household disinfectants (for a list of approved disinfectants, click here: (https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6811083-COVID-19-disinfectant-list-from-EPA.html#document/p1) Anything with alcohol or bleach works.
  • Should I wear a face mask?

    Currently, the CDC is recommending that everyone where a cloth face mask when they leave their homes. In addition, you should wear a mask if you are caring for someone who is sick. Masks should be disinfected (ideally, washed and dried, but at least sprayed with disinfectant) between wearings.

    N-95 masks and surgical masks should be reserved for health professionals.

  • When will I know if I’m infected?

    You may not know. Many people who are infected will never show symptoms. Or, you may show symptoms and it’s just the cold or a flu. Those who are infected with the virus and show symptoms typically become sick 2-14 days after they are exposed—on average, just over 5 days. You will likely recover within two weeks.

  • Who is most at risk?

    People of all ages may be infected, but certain groups are more likely to become seriously ill

    • Those age 60 or older
    • Those with compromised immune systems (recent transplant patients, those with heart conditions, cancer or diabetes, etc.)
    • Those with a history of respiratory issues
    • Women who are pregnant

    Remember, even if you’re young and healthy, you can spread the disease to others who may be at greater risk

  • I hear that certain drugs are being limited/rationed. How do I know if my medication is affected?

    GoodRx has posted a frequently updated list on their website (https://www.goodrx.com/blog/covid-19-drug-shortages-updates/). For the most part, medications that are being limited are those related to sedation, pain management or possible coronavirus cures. Pharmacies are following state regulations regarding state dispensing guidelines to prevent hoarding and to manage the pipeline. Contact your local pharmacy to see if there are any limits on the medications you currently take, and if they recommend ordering a larger (90-day) supply if it is available.

Testing

  • How do I know when it’s bad enough to get help?

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said these symptoms should prompt you to seek emergency care.
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
    • Confusion or inability to arouse
    • Bluish lips or face
    • Any other symptom that is severe or concerning

  • How do I take my temperature? How do I know if it’s high enough to be concerned?

    “Normal” temperatures can vary from person to person, based on age, weight and gender, among other factors, but generally, keep an eye out for a temperature of 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. If you don’t have a thermometer, monitor yourself for alternating sweats and chills. If you’re experiencing that, with or without body aches, call your doctor.

  • What should I do if I think I might have it?

    First, STAY AT HOME. Whether you actually have the cold, the flu or the virus, the best thing you can do is isolate yourself and your family members.

    Next, call your doctor, if you have one. If you don’t, call your employer’s telemedicine program (if one is available) or your local health department.

    When you call, describe your symptoms and your medical/travel history, and let the provider know if you or a family member has been exposed to the virus. Ask if you should get tested or treat at home, and what you should do if your symptoms change/worsen.

    In general, try to AVOID the emergency room if you are experiencing mild symptoms and are otherwise young and healthy. ER resources should be reserved for those experiencing severe symptoms (high fever, difficulty breathing) and/or who are at high risk for complications.

    If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include*:

    • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
    • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
    • New confusion or inability to arouse
    • Bluish lips or face

    *This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.

  • Should I get tested?

    It depends. Don’t get tested just for the sake of being tested. As you probably know there is a severe shortage of tests, and the ones that are available should be reserved for people who are already showing symptoms or who know they have recently been exposed (as in, they were exposed to a CONFIRMED case). Talk to your doctor or local health department to determine whether, or where, you should get tested.

  • How can I get tested? What are the criteria?

    Currently, there are a limited number of tests. In some areas, doctors and the health department determine who should be tested. Often, those decisions are based on where a person has traveled, known exposure to the disease, and the severity of their symptoms.

    Other areas are offering drive-through testing, or may send someone to your home to do the test. You will likely need a doctor’s referral or order for such testing. Check with your local health department or your doctor for the rules in your area.

    The CDC (www.cdc.gov) is updating its website daily with information about where you can get tested.

  • How much will the test cost?

    Under the CARES Act, coronavirus testing—and any office visit, urgent care clinic visit or ER visit that results in an order for the test or the test itself—is free of charge to all, regardless of whether you have insurance or the type of insurance you have. You should not be charged for your test.
    Note that it’s possible, that you may be billed for your test, especially if you go outside your health plan’s network or undergo unrelated tests.

  • I thought testing was supposed to be free, but I got a bill. Why?

    There could be two reasons. One, the law requiring insurers to cover testing at no charge was passed on March 18. If you were tested before that, you might be billed.

     

    Second, testing and doctor’s office, urgent care, telehealth or emergency room visits must be covered in full if the services “relate to the furnishing or administration” of a COVID-19 test or “to the evaluation of such individual for purposes of determining the need” of a test. If:

    • your visit does not result in a COVID-19 test,
    • you get tested by a doctor or facility that is not in-network for your plan, or
    • you get any type of treatment

    you could end up with a bill.

Treatment

  • How is COVID-19 treated?

    There is no cure or treatment at this time. Antibiotics are ineffective, as COVID-19 is a virus and not bacterial.

    Those with mild to moderate symptoms, drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated; take medication to reduce your fever and ease aches, and get plenty of rest. For more severe cases, you may receive supplemental oxygen or may need a respirator.

  • What should I do if I test positive?

    The Centers of Disease Control (CDC) offers these recommendations:

    Stay home except to get medical care

    • Stay in touch with your doctor. Call before you get medical care. Be sure to get care if you feel worse or you think it is an emergency.
    • Avoid public transportation: Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.

    Treat your symptoms

    • Get plenty of rest
    • Stay hydrated—drink lots of water, Gatorade, tea, etc.
    • Take medication to lower your fever and ease your aches and pain (most experts recommend acetaminophen—aka Tylenol)

    Separate yourself from other people in your home

    • Stay away from others:As much as possible, you should stay in a specific “sick room” and away from other people in your home. Use a separate bathroom, if available.
    • Limit contact with pets & animals:You should restrict contact with pets and other animals, just like you would around other people. When possible, have someone else care for your animals while you are sick with COVID-19. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with them.

    Call ahead before visiting your doctor. If you have a medical appointment, call your doctor’s office or emergency department, and tell them you have or may have COVID-19. This will help the office protect themselves and other patients.

    Wear a facemask if you are sick

    • If you are sick:You should wear a facemask when you are around other people and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office.
    • If you are caring for others:If the person who is sick is not able to wear a facemask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then people who live in the home should stay in a different room. When caregivers enter the room of the sick person, they should wear a facemask. Visitors, other than caregivers, are not recommended.

    Cover your coughs and sneezes

    • Cover: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
    • Dispose: Throw used tissues in a lined trash can.
    • Wash hands: Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

    Clean your hands often

    • Wash hands: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This is especially important after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.
    • Hand sanitizer: If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry.
    • Soap and water: Soap and water are the best option, especially if hands are visibly dirty.
    • Avoid touching: Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

    Avoid sharing personal household items

    • Do not share: Do not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people in your home.
    • Wash thoroughly after use: After using these items, wash them thoroughly with soap and water or put in the dishwasher.

    Clean high-touch surfaces in your isolation area (“sick room” and bathroom) every day; let a caregiver clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in other areas of the home.

    • If a caregiver or other person needs to clean and disinfect a sick person’s bedroom or bathroom, they should do so on an as-needed basis. The caregiver/other person should wear a mask and wait as long as possible after the sick person has used the bathroom.
    • High-touch surfaces include phones, remote controls, counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables.

    Clean and disinfect areas that may have blood, stool, or body fluids on them.

    • Household cleaners and disinfectants: Clean the area or item with soap and water or another detergent if it is dirty. Then, use a household disinfectant.

    Monitor your symptoms

    • Seek medical attention, but call first: Seek medical care right away if your illness is worsening (for example, if you have difficulty breathing). Before going to the doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them your symptoms. They will tell you what to do.
    • Wear a facemask: If possible, put on a facemask before you enter the building. If you can’t put on a facemask, try to keep a safe distance from other people (at least 6 feet away). This will help protect the people in the office or waiting room.
    • Follow care instructions from your healthcare provider and local health department: Your local health authorities will give instructions on checking your symptoms and reporting information.

    Call 911 if you have a medical emergency: If you have a medical emergency and need to call 911, notify the operator that you have or think you might have, COVID-19. If possible, put on a facemask before medical help arrives.

    If you can’t get through, try your plan’s Nurse Line (or similar resource) if available, or a local urgent care center.

  • If I have COVID-19, when is it safe to discontinue home isolation?

    Again, according to the CDC, people with COVID-19 who have stayed home (home isolated) can stop home isolation under the following conditions:

    • If you will not have a testto determine if you are still contagious, you can leave home after these three things have happened:
      • You have had no fever for at least 72 hours (that is three full days of no fever without the use medicine that reduces fevers)
        AND
      • other symptoms have improved (for example, when your cough or shortness of breath have improved)
        AND
      • at least 7 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared
    • If you will be tested to determine if you are still contagious, you can leave home after these three things have happened:
      • You no longer have a fever (without the use of medicine that reduces fevers)
        AND
      • other symptoms have improved (for example, when your cough or shortness of breath have improved)
        AND
      • you received two negative tests in a row, 24 hours apart. Your doctor will follow CDC guidelines.

    In all cases, follow the guidance of your healthcare provider and local health department. Local decisions depend on local circumstances.

  • What should I tell a doctor if I’m sick?

    If you are in close contact with someone with COVID-19 or you are a resident in a community where there is ongoing spread of COVID-19 and develop symptoms of COVID-19, call your health care provider and tell them about your symptoms and your exposure. They will decide whether you need to be tested, but keep in mind that there is no treatment for COVID-19 and people who are mildly ill may be able to isolate and care for themselves at home.

  • Can a telemedicine doctor diagnosis COVID-19? Can s/he prescribe medications?

    Yes, in many cases a telemedicine provider can diagnose COVID-19 remotely if you provide an accurate description of your symptoms. In most states, telemedicine docs can prescribe medication. But keep in mind there are currently no prescription medications that can cure COVID-19.

  • What should I stock up on?

    It’s probably a good idea to have a decent (two week) supply of certain items on hand. This includes:

    • Kleenex
    • Cold or flu medicine, including cough medicine
    • Pain relievers (but avoid ibuprofen unless your doctor tells you otherwise)
    • Extra prescription medications
    • Water, Gatorade or Pedialyte, and similar drinks to help you stay hydrated
    • Personal hygiene products
    • Pet food and supplies
    • Shelf stable foods like beans, soup, rice and pasta, peanut butter, etc.

    Also, if you don’t have a thermometer in the house, it’s a good time to get one.

    The idea is to reduce the need to go out—not to hoard items. There is not likely to be a food shortage or a shortage of paper goods—just buy what you need and maybe a few extras.

  • What should I avoid?

    Current thinking is that you should avoid aspirin, Ibuprofen and other NSAIDs unless directed by your doctor (these drugs may pose a risk for patients with high blood pressure or diabetes)

  • What if I’m caring for someone who is sick?

    The steps are similar to caring for yourself and protecting yourself from infection:

    • Keep the patient isolated as much as possible (a separate sleeping area and bathroom, if possible)
    • Consider wearing a mask when in their presence, if possible
    • Clean high-touch surfaces in their isolation area every day; and disinfect high-touch surfaces in other areas of the home. Wear a mask when cleaning and wait as long as possible after the patient has used the bathroom.
    • High-touch surfaces include phones, remote controls, counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables.
  • What happens if I’m hospitalized?

    Currently, you will be treated as if you had any other illness, and if you have insurance will be subject to the usual deductibles, copays and/or coinsurance.

  • What will treatment cost me if I’m hospitalized?

    Currently, you will be treated as if you had any other illness, and if you have insurance will be subject to the usual deductibles, copays and/or coinsurance. Your final cost will depend on what tests you need, and the level of care you receive. And, because there is no set cost for health care, your cost may depend on which hospital you go to, whether the facility is in- or out-of-network for your plan, and whether the caregivers who treat you are in-network.

  • What should I know if I’m hospitalized?

    If you ARE hospitalized, here are some things to keep in mind:

    • Unfortunately, you’ll probably not be allowed to have visitors., even if you’re not hospitalized due to coronavirus. If you can, bring your cell phone and a charger with you so you can stay in touch with friends and family.
    • Try (as best you can) to keep track of which doctors see you and when, what treatments and medications you are given, and how long you are in each treatment area (e.g., six hours in ER, two days in observation, a week in standard hospital room).
    • When you are discharged, ask for a detailed bill.

    It’s also important to understand that if you are hospitalized with severe symptoms, it’s possible you will be in the ICU for weeks, not days. This is why it is so important to protect yourself from exposure.

  • What if I have another health emergency?

    Of course, if you have a true emergency, don’t hesitate to go to the emergency room. In general, doctors say you should go to the ER if you have:

    • wheezing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    • chest pain
    • displaced or open wound fractures
    • fainting or dizziness
    • sudden numbness or weakness
    • bleeding that cannot be stopped
    • abdominal pain – especially intense localized pain
    • fever with convulsions or any fever in children under 3 months
    • confusion or changes in mental status
    • coughing or vomiting blood
    • severe headache or head injury, especially if the individual is on aspirin or blood thinners
    • blood in the urine, or bloody diarrhea
    • sudden inability to speak, see, walk or move

     

    Also, according to the Mayo Clinic, respiratory distress can also be a sign of stroke or heart attack. all 911 if you have these signs or symptoms of a stroke:

    • Sudden trouble with speaking and understanding
    • Paralysis or numbness of the face, arm or leg
    • Trouble with seeing in one or both eyes
    • Severe, sudden headache
    • Dizziness, vomiting or altered consciousness
    • Trouble walking or maintaining balance

    Also call 911 if you experience these signs or symptoms of heart attack:

    • Pressure, tightness, pain, or a squeezing or aching sensation in your chest or arms that may spread to your neck, jaw or back
    • Nausea, indigestion, heartburn or abdominal pain
    • Shortness of breath
    • Cold sweat
    • Fatigue
    • Lightheadedness or sudden dizziness

Benefits/HealthCare/Miscellaneous

  • I’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19. I waived health coverage from my employer. Can I sign up now?

    No. A COVID-19 diagnosis is not a qualifying life event that would allow you to change your coverage mid year.

  • I heard the government is sending me money under the COVID stimulus package. How much will I get and when will I get it?

    If President Trump signs the bill passed by the Senate on March 25, single Americans would receive $1,200, married couples would get $2,400, and parents would see $500 for each child under age 17. However, the payments would start to phase out for individuals with adjusted gross incomes of more than $75,000, and those making more than $99,000 would not qualify at all. The thresholds are doubled for couples.

     

    Qualifying income levels will be based on 2019 federal tax returns, if already filed, and otherwise on 2018 returns.

     

    While the government is stating they expect funds will be issued by April 6 (about two weeks after the bill is signed), past experience indicates that within four to eight weeks is more likely. Those who file their tax returns electronically may see their money sooner, as the government has their direct deposit information on file.

     

    Check with your financial advisor for the most current information about what you can expect, and when. Other good resources include:

    https://www.nytimes.com/article/coronavirus-stimulus-package-questions-answers.html

    https://smartasset.com/financial-advisor/coronavirus-stimulus-checks-how-much-will-you-get

  • Calculate how much you’ll get from the $1,200 (or more) coronavirus checks

    Provided by The Washington Post.

    Over 80 percent of American adults will receive a payment

    Calculate your stimulus payment

     

  • My doctor has told me to self-quarantine because I am at high risk for developing COVID-19. Am I eligible for emergency sick pay?

    Maybe. If you are unable to work because a health care provider has advised you to self-quarantine because you are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and (2) such self-quarantine actually prevents you from working (e.g., you cannot telework, or you can but your employer has no work for you to do), then you are likely entitled to the emergency sick leave pay.

    You must provide documentation to employer, including a signed statement containing the following information: (1) your name; (2) the date(s) for which leave is requested; (3) the COVID-19 qualifying reason for leave; and (4) a statement representing that you are unable to work or telework because of the COVID-19 qualifying reason. You must also provide the name of the health care provider who advised you to self-quarantine for COVID-19 related reasons.

  • I’ve read that insurance companies are waiving cost sharing (copays, coinsurance, etc.) for COVID treatment now. Why did I get a bill?

    First, not all insurers are doing this yet. Second, if your plan is self-insured (that is, your employer actually pays the bills but an insurance company processes the payments), your employer determines whether to waive the copays, etc. Third, insurers are likely waiving cost sharing on a going-forward basis—it may not apply to treatment that already happened or that is underway. Finally, if you were treated for COVID-like symptoms but it turned out you had the flu or something else instead, you may still be charged (it’s like going to the ER when you didn’t actually have an emergency).

  • I heard that I don’t need a doctor’s prescription any more to get reimbursed for OTC medications through my FSA/HSA/HRA. Is that true?

    Yes. The newly passed CARES Act includes important provisions for users of health savings accounts (HSAs), flexible spending accounts (FSAs), and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs), specifically:

    • Over-the-counter drugs and medicines not prescribed by a physician can now be reimbursed pre-tax.
    • Menstrual care products are now considered eligible expenses. Examples include tampons, pads, liners, cups, sponges, or similar products.

    In addition, HDHPs can now cover telehealth services pre-deductible without impacting HSA eligibility.

    These changes are retroactive to January 1, 2020.

  • What if I’m on vacation or traveling and get sick?

    Call your doctor immediately for advice. If you don’t have a doctor, call the member services number on your medical plan ID card for advice (many plans offer a nurse line that can answer questions for you). Your plan can tell you if there is an in-network provider near you. You may also want to make use of your telemedicine option, if available.

    If you are mildly ill, you may need to self-quarantine where you are (it’s unlikely you’ll be able to fly or take other public transportation home). If you are within driving distance of home, and are up to it, consider returning home to self-isolate. That way you will have access to in-network providers.

    Many plans will cover emergency care on an in-network basis. Call your plan or HR department to determine whether your situation counts as an emergency.

    If you are hospitalized, try to keep track of any tests run, doctors you see, and treatments you receive. Ask for a detailed bill when you are discharged.

    Finally, call the local health department where you are for more information and instructions.

  • This is making me really anxious and depressed. What can I do?

    First, understand you are not alone. This is a tense time for all of us. That said, there are some things you can do to reduce your stress.

    • Limit your media exposure. While it’s important to stay informed about changing events involving COVID-19, take a break from the news coverage, especially if it’s stressing you out or interfering with your usual activities.
    • Stay in touch with friends and family. Make phone calls, use video chats, maybe even write notes and letters. If you’ve been resisting social media, this might be the time to join!
    • Talk to your children. Help them understand that the changes to their routine are meant to keep them safe and healthy, and that they are temporary.
    • Practice self-care. Take time each day to do something you love, or to treat yourself. Watch a favorite movie, read a book you’ve been wanting to read, try out a new exercise program, give yourself a facial, give (and get) a massage from a loved one, have an extra piece of chocolate.
    • Get some fresh air. Take a walk outside, visit a park—just keep six feet away from others.
    • Ask for help if you need it. Contact your employer’s EAP (if one is available) or county mental health service if you need someone to talk to.
  • How can I find out what my plan covers?

    You have several resources available to you. First, you can call the member services number on the back of your ID card. Second, if you have it handy, read your summary plan description (or SPD). It’s a comprehensive description of what your plan covers, how costs are shared, and your (and the plan’s) rights and responsibilities. You can also log into your carrier’s member webpage for more information.

    Of course, you can also contact your HR department, but it may take some time for them to get back to you.

  • I have surgery scheduled in the next few weeks. Should I keep the appointment?

    Most hospitals have already cancelled elective surgeries. Experts recommend that you cancel any elective procedures (including dental work) for the foreseeable future. This is certainly not a time to be in the hospital (due to potential exposure) and it’s best to free up hospital resources to deal with the infected.

    If you haven’t already heard from your provider about cancelling or rescheduling your appointment, you should give them a call.

  • How else can I prepare?

    If you haven’t done so already, this would be a good time to get important documentation together. For example:

    • Create an emergency contact list, with names and phone numbers of friends and family, your doctor(s) and your supervisors(s) or the number of your HR department.
    • Get your medical information together for each family member. This includes names and numbers for each of your doctors and your pharmacy, names and dosages of each of your medications, and a list of your health conditions. This will be especially helpful if you need to be taken somewhere by ambulance and a family member cannot come with you.
    • If you do not already have a medical power of attorney or living will, take the time to discuss your wishes with your family. You may even want to write a letter outlining your wishes. You are entitled to direct your own medical care and health care professionals are required to follow your requests if they have clear and convincing evidence of what you want.

    This is also a good time to research local resources, and the resources your employer offers. Right those resource names and numbers down and keep them where you can find them easily. These might include local health hotlines, mental health resources (such as your company’s EAP, if there is one), pharmacies that deliver (if you don’t have a usual pharmacy), restaurants that deliver or provide takeout, and the operating hours of stores you may need to visit.

     

     

  • Should I be doing the laundry any special way?

    Right now, experts don’t know if it can be transmitted on cloth. General advice is wash clothes on the warmest setting possible for the item and be sure to dry it thoroughly. Line your hamper/laundry basket with something that can be washed and or thrown away. If clothing is soiled with bodily fluids (and/or it belongs to someone who is sick) wear gloves when handling and wash separately from others’ clothing. And of course, wash your hands after doing the wash!

    If you have to go to the laundromat or a shared laundry room (like in an apartment building), maintain social distancing; you might want to use gloves or carry wipes with you to use on machine handles and lids and coin slots.

    Finally, if it’s safe to use bleach on your clothes, consider using a detergent that contains bleach compounds or adding bleach to the load.

    If you’re washing clothing or bedding from someone who is sick, you may want to disinfect your washer afterwards by running it on the hottest cycle with a cup of bleach or vinegar. Follow with another run on the cold cycle.

  • Should I be doing errands/picking up groceries for my neighbors or elderly relatives?

    Absolutely. This is a great way to support social distancing—if you can shop for more than one person, you are reducing the number of people who must leave their homes and who are gathering in public places. However, be safe—be sure to disinfect your cart handles, use gloves or wipe when using self-scanners or pay terminals, and leave deliveries on front porches, in vestibules or by doorways if at all possible. And wash your hands!!!

  • What if I have a dental emergency?

    Dental offices are generally still handling dental emergencies—especially as it may ease the burden on hospital emergency departments. Generally, a dental emergency is considered:

  • Should I/can I still order takeout or delivery?

    Yes, absolutely. Not only will it give you a break from cooking—or maybe even give you access to things you couldn’t get at the grocery store (e.g., a sandwich when you couldn’t find bread), you’ll be supporting local businesses. Some suggestions:

    • DO take advantage of “contactless” delivery or curbside delivery if it is available—especially if you’re not feeling well.
    • DO schedule pick up or delivery for an “off hour” time to go to reduce the number of people who might be in line for pickup and ensure timely delivery. For example, consider getting lunch at 11:30 or 1:30 instead of 12-1.
    • DO think about buying a larger portion than you usually would, if you can afford it. You can save the rest for another meal.; that’s one less meal you have to shop for or cook! (Maybe save half of that foot-long sub for tomorrow?)
    • DO tip generously. The staff is losing a lot of money now that dine-in is not an option.
    • DO wash your hands after handling packaging and before eating.
    • DON’T put the delivery directly on your counter or table—place it on paper towels or newspaper so something equally disposable. Remove food from outer packaging promptly and dispose of bags, boxes, etc. Disinfect any surface the packaging contacts.
    • DON’T share utensils or drinks and don’t eat out of the same container.

    Remember that restaurants have long been required to follow food safety rules, in addition to the new measures now put into place in the wake of COVID-19.

COBRA

  • Will my health coverage continue if I lose my job?

    It depends.

     

    • If you are furloughed (not terminated), you may still have coverage. You will need to check with your employer. If not, you should be offered COBRA; you also may have the option (depending on your state) to buy coverage through the ACA Marketplace. (As of March 25, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington were opening their state-run exchanges to new enrollments.)
    • If your hours are reduced, you may qualify for COBRA.
    • If you are laid off, you can apply for COBRA, apply for coverage on the Exchange, or, if you are over age 65, apply for Medicare.
    • If your company goes out of business, you can apply for coverage on the Exchange, or apply for Medicare (if you are over age 65).

    Note that if you are on FMLA leave, that does NOT make you eligible for COBRA unless you do not return to work.

    Contact your employer’s HR department and your financial advisor for guidance.

FSA

  • Can I stop making contributions to my dependent care FSA? My child care is closed.

    Probably. If your plan allows all federally recognized changes, you can decrease or stop contributions if you experience a qualifying life event, such as:

    • You have a change in hours for your current provider
    • There is a significant cost change for childcare
    • There is a change in provider

    Keep in mind that you have 30 days from the event listed above to make your change. Check with your FSA administrator or employer to see what changes your plan allows.

  • Can I sign up for a dependent care FSA now? I need someone to watch my child so I can work at home, now that school is closed.

    Maybe. Some plans are permitting mid-year (off cycle) enrollments to accommodate parents who now need child care so they can work. You may also be able to enroll if your plan considers the need for child care as a qualifying life event. Contact your FSA administrator or employer to see what is allowed and if they are planning to make any changes to accommodate the current situation.

  • Can I pay my teenager to look after my younger children so I can work at home, and get reimbursed through the DC FSA?

    No. While you CAN pay a babysitter to care for your children (rather than a day care center), you are not permitted to be reimbursed for paying your child(ren) under the age of 19 or anyone who is your tax dependent to care for your children.

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