UPDATED Aug. 27, 2021
At Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE), our top priority is to ensure the health and safety of our customers. We continue to follow the guidance of local and federal health officials regarding the impact of COVID-19. Our top priority is to continue to provide quality service to our customers while protecting the health of our employees.
Please see below for important updated information about benefits for COVID-19 vaccinations, testing and treatment, as well as benefits for telehealth services.
Coverage for COVID-19 vaccinations
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, now known as Comirnaty (koe-mir’-na-tee), for the prevention of the disease in individuals 16 years of age and older. The vaccine also continues to be available under emergency use authorization (EUA), including for people 12 through 15 years of age and for the administration of a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals. Two additional vaccines are also approved under EUA: Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
Available at no cost to most members
Most BCBSNE members will receive these approved vaccinations at no cost. Through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the government is paying for the cost of the vaccine (drug) and most health plans will cover the cost of the administration and related office visit if applicable. To determine if additional administration costs may apply, please talk to your employer or call the number on the back of your BCBSNE member ID card.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state health departments are coordinating vaccine distribution. Rollout will be done in phases recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP; a group of medical and public health experts who make recommendations on the use of vaccines in the U.S. civilian population) and closely monitored.
For more information on the U.S. COVID-19 vaccination program, visit the CDC’s website.
BCBSNE encourages members to receive their COVID-19 vaccinations once they’re able.
On Monday, March 29, Nebraska pharmacies in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program began vaccinating people ages 18 and older. The following pharmacies have public scheduling portals online where people can check availability and schedule an appointment, according to DHHS:
For Nebraska-specific information, visit the Nebraska DHHS website.
Coverage for COVID-19 testing
BCBSNE is continuing to waive member cost-sharing for medically appropriate in-network COVID-19 testing and related services through Oct. 17, 2021. This means members will pay nothing for medically appropriate in-network testing and related services in a telehealth session, doctor’s office, urgent care facility or emergency room.
Medically appropriate COVID-19 tests must be ordered by a doctor or health care provider for the purpose of diagnosing COVID-19. This includes COVID-19 drive-through test sites or home test kits purchased with an order from a doctor. Test kits that do not require a doctor’s order are considered over-the-counter and are not covered by your BCBSNE plan; these may be submitted for reimbursement under flex or health savings accounts (FSA or HSA).
Typically, the most appropriate test is the single component rapid or PCR antigen test, which tests only for COVID-19. Avoid having multiple or unnecessary tests, including large panel tests. Many conditions are tested for in large panel tests, only one of which is COVID-19. These may not be covered under your health plan and you could be responsible for the entire fee (approximately $1,000).
This waiver of cost shares applies to all fully insured groups and individual health plan members, along with those who receive their insurance through our Medicare Supplement and Medicare Advantage plans. Members enrolled in a self-funded group health plan should check with their employer about their benefits.
Starting Nov. 1, 2020, COVID-19 testing for public surveillance or employment purposes is not covered. This includes testing for work, school, travel and other public surveillance reasons, unless required by law.
Coverage for coronavirus treatment
Starting Jan. 1, 2021, BCBSNE will apply member cost shares to treatment of COVID-19. Self-funded groups that are currently covering treatment of COVID-19 without member cost shares may extend that coverage past Dec. 31, 2020. Employees of self-funded groups should check with their employer to find out about their cost shares.
Coverage for telehealth
Member cost shares will continue to be waived through Oct. 17, 2021, for all in-network telehealth visits directly related to diagnosing COVID-19. Normal plan cost shares apply for all other covered telehealth services.
We encourage you to reach out to your primary care provider to learn about their telehealth capabilities. You can also register to use services provided by BCBSNE’s preferred telehealth provider, Amwell. To do so, please follow the instructions found on NebraskaBlue.com/Telehealth.
Information for members with high deductible health plans
Recent federal legislation allows high deductible health plans linked to an HSA to waive member cost shares for the following without tax penalty:
- COVID-19 testing, including the office/urgent care/emergency room visit
- Telehealth (for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19-related services)
In addition, the legislation allows individuals to use HSA/FSA funds for the purchase of over-the-counter medical products without requiring a doctor’s prescription.
CDC recommends the following preventive actions:
- Maintain proper hygiene:
Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw it away. Disinfect surfaces that are touched often.
- Limit exposure:
Stay home if you are sick and avoid close contact with people who are ill.
- Protect yourself and others:
Wear a mask and practice social distancing when you are in public spaces.
Resources and information from our local provider partners
Bryan Memorial Hospital: bryanhealth.com/coronavirus
CHI Health: chihealth.com/coronavirus
Children’s Hospital and Medical Center: childrensomaha.org/COVID
Methodist Hospital: bestcare.org/covid-19
Nebraska Medicine: nebraskamed.com/COVID
Frequently asked questions
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a coronavirus first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China. While other coronavirus strains have sickened people before, this is the first time this strain has been seen in humans.
How does the virus spread?
The first infections of COVID-19 were linked to a live animal market, according to the CDC. The virus now spreads from person-to-person through droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. If the droplets are inhaled or land in the mouth or nose of another person, they may become infected.
What are the symptoms?
COVID-19 symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the CDC.
What should I do if I think I have the virus?
Don’t panic. Call your doctor or use telehealth services if you have symptoms and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or if you live or have recently traveled to an area with COVID-19 cases.
If you need to go to your doctor’s office, urgent care or the emergency room, it’s important to call ahead, so health care staff can prepare for your arrival and prevent you from accidentally exposing other patients to the virus should you have the disease.
In the event of an emergency, call 911 and tell emergency services that you might have COVID-19.
What should I do to prepare?
You should prepare for a COVID-19 outbreak in Nebraska just like you would for any other emergency. Make a backup plan for work and childcare and keep extra staples, including food and medical supplies, on hand.
What COVID-19 vaccines are approved?
On August 23, 2021, the FDA approved the first COVID-19 vaccine, known as the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, now known as Comirnaty (koe-mir’-na-tee), for the prevention of the disease in individuals 16 years of age and older. The vaccine also continues to be available under emergency use authorization (EUA), including for people 12 through 15 years of age and for the administration of a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals.
The FDA has approved two other COVID-19 vaccines for EUA: Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
How many doses of the vaccine do I need?
Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines consist of a series of two doses, meaning you will need two doses of the same vaccine for it to be effective. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses are delivered three weeks apart while Moderna vaccine doses are delivered one month apart. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine consists of one dose.
Can I get the vaccine if I’ve already been infected?
Yes, the vaccine is available to everyone, regardless of if you have a history of symptomatic or asymptomatic COVID-19 infection, according to the CDC.
How do I know if I should get the vaccine?
Your primary care doctor can best help you answer this question because they know your medical history and can guide you accordingly. Schedule time to talk with them.
Can I choose which vaccine I get?
You should talk with your doctor to determine which vaccine is best for you. This would be based on several factors, including health conditions, demographics, etc. Also, not all vaccines will be available in all geographic areas.
What will I pay for the vaccine?
At this time, the vaccine is available at no cost to you because it is currently funded through the government. However, there may be additional costs for administration. There is no cost for administration for most members. To determine if additional administration costs may apply, please talk to your employer or call the number on the back of your member ID card.
Where can I find the most up-to-date information?
For the most up-to-date information about COVID-19, visit the CDC.gov/Coronavirus.