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Coronavirus, Stay Up To Date

As we work together to contain the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, we want our members to have access to the latest information. We are closely following the situation and will update this site regularly. 

We're here to help you

Vaccine coverage: let’s stick together

We believe the FDA authorized COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and our best tool to contain the pandemic. That’s why we are supporting federal, state and local vaccination distribution efforts by ensuring the vaccine will be covered at no cost to our members. When you are eligible, we urge you to say yes to the vaccine, for your own health as well as that of your friends and family.

Telehealth: You have $0 Options.

If you feel sick, stay home and call your doctor. In many cases, your doctor can provide a virtual visit and provide a diagnosis via phone or video conversation. We strongly recommend members use this benefit as the first step to consulting with a doctor.

Testing and treatment: fully covered for our members

Be assured, we will cover the full cost of COVID-19 diagnostic tests as prescribed by doctors. We will also cover the full cost of COVID-19 treatment regardless of where the care is provided in the United States. We are not requiring prior authorizations for testing, and all costs for participating doctors, telemedicine, urgent care, and emergency room visits for diagnostic testing related to COVID-19 have been waived.

An Important Message from our Chief Medical Officer, Thomas Schenk, M.D.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Updated July 22, 2021

BlueShield of Northeastern New York is closely monitoring the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) situation. The health and well-being of our members is our top priority, and we remain committed to ensuring our members and customers have access to the care and information they need.

Vaccine

Will I have to pay to get the vaccine?

  • The first quantity of doses for the vaccine have been paid for in advance by the federal government
  • BlueShield fully-insured commercial and Medicare Advantage members will receive FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines free of charge  
    • Please note: If you get the vaccine at your PCP office, any other services performed at the same appointment will be covered in accordance with your health plan benefits

Are the vaccines safe?

  • Yes, the vaccines have been safe and effective in clinical trials and since being rolled out to the general population
  • Please note: The FDA and CDC have reported a small number of cases of a rare and serious blood clotting disorder called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), which involves blood clots with low platelets seen mostly in women under age 50, that is associated with the administration of the J&J/Janssen vaccine
  • After a brief pause and further review, the FDA and CDC have determined the J&J/Janssen vaccine can continue to be administered
  • The CDC recommends that women under 50, who may be at an increased risk for this rare but serious adverse reaction to the J&J/Janssen vaccine, be aware of this effect and know there are other vaccine options available (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) where this risk has not been seen
  • The FDA and CDC will continue to monitor the safety of COVID-19 vaccines, to make sure even very rare side effects are identified
  • For more information on the safety of the vaccines, visit cdc.gov

When can I get vaccinated?

  • We are supporting the federal, state and county distribution plans for the vaccine
  • In New York, anyone 12 years or older can schedule a vaccine appointment

How many doses are needed for the vaccine?

  • Both mRNA vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) require two shots
    • The first shot starts building protection, but a second dose is required a few weeks later to get the most protection the vaccine can offer
  • The J&J/Janssen vaccine requires one shot

How do I sign up for the vaccine?

  • Appointments at New York State-run vaccine sites can be made on the Am I Eligible website or by calling the New York State COVID-19 Vaccination Hotline at 1-833-NYS-4-VAX (1-833-697-4829)
  • Vaccines are also available at pharmacies, hospitals and through local health departments. 
  • Check vaccinefinder.org for other availability in your area
  • After you schedule your vaccine appointment, click here to review the next steps to getting your vaccine, including what documentation you will need to bring

Do I need to bring my insurance card to my vaccine appointment?

  • Some locations may require you to provide your BlueShield member ID card and/or your red, white and blue Medicare Health Insurance ID card
  • While requirements vary by location, we encourage members to bring these documents and contact Customer Service if you need a new member ID card
  • Your ID card can also be accessed by logging into your member account at bsneny.com

Can a COVID-19 vaccine make me sick with COVID?

  • No, none of the authorized vaccines contain the live virus that causes COVID-19, so you cannot get sick from the vaccine
  • The vaccines teach our immune system to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19
  • While this process can cause temporary symptoms such as a sore arm, mild fever, or body ache, these are normal signs that your body is building immunity against the virus

Are the vaccines effective?

  • Yes, data from millions of individuals show the authorized vaccines are safe and effective
  • In clinical trials involving more than 70,000 individuals, the mRNA vaccines had an efficacy rate around 95%
  • The J&J/Janssen vaccine was found to be 85% effective in preventing severe disease and 100% effective in preventing death, 28 days after vaccination
  • This means that in most cases, the vaccines were shown to prevent COVID-19 or decrease its severity
  • For more information about vaccine development and approval, read this article from the FDA: Vaccine Development 101

Are the vaccines safe for people of color?

  • People of color represented 42% of Pfizer’s global clinical trials participants and 37% of Moderna’s participants
  • The J&J/Janssen US vaccine study included more than 30% of individuals who identified as people of color, and percentages were much higher in some of the other countries where studies were conducted
  • All of these vaccines were created intentionally for a diverse worldwide population
  • CDC data has shown that people of color have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19; therefore, it is encouraging to see people of color well represented in these vaccine trials

Do I need to get vaccinated if I've already had COVID-19?

  • Yes, people who have been sick with COVID-19 still need to get vaccinated
  • Currently, experts do not know how long immunity lasts after a COVID-19 infection
  • There are severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and re-infection is possible

Can the vaccines cause infertility?

  • There is no evidence that the vaccines cause fertility problems
  • There is also no evidence that the antibodies formed from COVID-19 vaccines cause pregnancy problems
  • People who are trying to become pregnant now or in the future or who are pregnant or nursing should receive the COVID-19 vaccine

If I have allergies, should I get the vaccine?

  • The CDC recommends that people who have had severe or immediate allergic reactions to any ingredient in the vaccines, or who have had a severe or immediate allergic reaction to the first mRNA vaccine dose, should not get vaccinated
  • Polyethylene glycol (PEG) is an ingredient in the mRNA vaccines and polysorbate is an ingredient in the J&J/Janssen vaccine
    • If you are allergic to PEG, the CDC recommends that you should not get an mRNA vaccine and ask your doctor if you should get the J&J/Janssen vaccine
    • If you are allergic to polysorbate, the CDC recommends that you should not get the J&J/Janssen vaccine and ask your doctor if you should get an mRNA vaccine
  • People with a history of severe allergic reactions not related to vaccines or injectable medications (including food, pet, venom, oral medication, environmental, or latex allergies) should get the vaccine
  • Vaccine allergies are very uncommon

Were the vaccines developed too quickly?

A number of factors helped bring safe and effective vaccines to market quickly:

  • The messenger RNA (mRNA) technology used in the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, as well as the technology used by J&J/Janssen, has been studied for years
  • The pandemic resulted in guaranteed investment from governments and heightened urgency, making clinical trials easier to complete than any other previous vaccine
  • Widespread COVID-19 infection made it easy to confirm that the vaccine worked on trial participants

Are the vaccines effective against the newest variants of the virus?

  • Getting the recommended doses of the authorized vaccines is the best way to protect against the emerging virus variants
  • According to the CDC, studies so far suggest that antibodies generated through the authorized vaccines recognize these variants

Will the mRNA vaccines change my DNA?

  • No, COVID-19 Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines do not alter or interact with our DNA in any way
  • These vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response
  • The mRNA from the COVID-19 vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept, so the mRNA cannot affect or interact with our DNA in any way

    Source: 
    CDC

Is the J&J/Janssen vaccine less effective than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines?

  • No, all three authorized vaccines are important tools in containing the pandemic, preventing serious illness, hospitalization, and death
  • Clinical studies were designed differently for each vaccine, using different populations in different countries. Therefore, it is impossible to compare the efficacy rates of the authorized vaccines
  • While made differently than the mRNA vaccines, the J&J/Janssen vaccine is highly effective and causes the same immune response to protect you against COVID-19 infection

Can I choose the vaccine I want?

  • To see which locations are offering what type of vaccine closest to you, you can visit the Am I Eligible website or vaccinefinder.org
  • Getting everyone vaccinated as quickly as possible is the best way to protect against emerging virus variants

What should I do if I received the J&J/Janssen vaccine?

  • If you have received the J&J/Janssen vaccine and experience symptoms of a rare blood clotting disorder within 3 weeks of getting vaccinated, you should contact your health care provider immediately
  • According to the CDC, symptoms may include:
    • Severe or persistent headaches or blurred vision
    • Shortness of breath
    • Chest pain
    • Leg swelling
    • Persistent abdominal pain
    • Easy bruising or tiny blood spots under the skin beyond the injection site

Are the vaccines safe for pregnant people?

  • Yes, the CDC found that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective during pregnancy and recommends pregnant people receive the vaccine
  • Please note: The CDC recommends that women under 50, who may be at an increased risk of a rare and serious blood clotting disorder called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), which involves blood clots with low platelets associated with the administration of the J&J/Janssen vaccine, be aware of this adverse effect and know there are other vaccine options available (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) where this risk has not been seen

Do I need to get a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine?

  • According to the CDC, if you received an mRNA vaccine you are not considered fully vaccinated until two weeks after getting your second Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna shot
  • Getting a second dose of these vaccines increases your protection against the COVID-19 virus, including new variants
  • The CDC continues to study and monitor the safety and effectiveness of all vaccines and emerging new variants

Antibody Testing

Should I get the COVID-19 antibody test?

  • COVID-19 antibody testing tells individuals who may have had symptoms if they were infected 1-3 weeks prior; scientists do not know yet if antibodies protect from reinfection and/or how long immunity might last
    • Please note: testing for COVID-19 antibodies is a blood test and should not be confused with the COVID-19 diagnostic test which is a swab test
  • We are aware that some local urgent care and other facilities are offering direct access to antibody testing and we strongly encourage you to speak with your primary care provider before having this performed
  • If you suspect you had symptoms of COVID-19 and are fully recovered, your doctor or provider will determine if you should get tested
  • The CDC has stated the antibody test is not 100% accurate and should not be used to determine if someone can return to work or participate in group gatherings; mass testing should be used for research purposes only

Is COVID-19 antibody testing covered by my plan?

  • Yes, BlueShield members will not pay to receive an antibody test that was performed by a licensed or authorized health provider between April 10, 2020 and October 18, 2021
  • Consult with your provider to determine if you should get tested
  • BlueShield will continue to evolve our testing policy based on science and will cover medically-appropriate, provider-ordered testing at no cost to our members

If I have not had symptoms or been diagnosed with COVID-19 and I do not have an order from my provider, but my employer requires testing for me to return to work or continue working, would my health insurance cover the cost?

  • No, occupational testing for COVID-19 antibodies is not a covered health care benefit; generally, your employer would cover these expenses as a work-related cost
  • You should contact your employer for more information about getting tested
  • You can get make an appointment to get employer-required testing at one of the New York State testing sites by calling the New York State Department of Health at 1-888-364-3065 or contacting your county health department

Do I have to go to a specific lab to get antibody testing?

  • After consulting first with your primary care provider, if your provider feels it’s appropriate, they will determine where you can go for testing; however, Quest Diagnostics remains our first preferred network lab

COVID-19 Testing

Should I get tested for the coronavirus?

  • COVID-19 diagnostic testing tells individuals who are symptomatic or came in contact with a symptomatic individual but are asymptomatic,  if they have a current infection, or very recent infection
    • Please note: diagnostic testing for COVID-19 is a swab test and should not be confused with the COVID-19 antibody test which is a blood test
  • If you suspect you have symptoms of the coronavirus, please call your provider or connect with them through telemedicine if they offer it
  • Your provider will determine whether you need additional testing and care and, if needed, will make a specific recommendation on where to go

What if I don’t have a doctor?

  • If you do not have a primary care physician, you might consider scheduling a visit with our telemedicine partner, Doctor on Demand®
  • They will determine whether you need additional testing and care and, if needed, will make a specific recommendation on where to go
  • You can also call the customer service number listed on the back of your member ID card if you need help finding a provider near you

Is the coronavirus diagnostic test covered with my health plan?

  • Yes, BlueShield members will not have to pay for COVID-19 diagnostic tests that are performed by a licensed or authorized health care provider through October 18, 2021
  • Exclusions to this coverage include testing for the following:
    • Public surveillance testing
    • Testing required to attend large gatherings and events (i.e. sports games, concerts, weddings, etc.)
    • Testing required to return or continue going to work or school
  • If you were identified as being potentially positive for COVID-19 as part of pool-testing for occupational or education-required testing, we will waive the cost-share for the secondary, individual test; however, the initial pool-test is not considered to be a covered health care benefit
  • This includes any Commercial, individual, and Medicare Advantage members
  • BlueShield will continue to evolve our testing policy based on science and will cover medically-appropriate, provider-ordered testing at no cost to our members

What is a COVID-19 rapid diagnostic test and is it covered by my plan?

  • A COVID-19 rapid test is one type of diagnostic test that gives results within minutes of testing a sample
  • We will continue to waive the cost-share for COVID-19 diagnostic testing that is that is performed by a licensed or authorized health care provider, this includes rapid testing

If I have no symptoms or a provider's order, but my employer, or New York State, requires diagnostic testing for me to return to work or continue working, would my health insurance cover the cost?

  • No, occupational testing for COVID-19 is not a covered health care benefit; generally, employers would cover these expenses as a work-related cost
  • You should contact your employer for more information about getting tested
  • You can get make an appointment to get employer-required testing at one of the New York State testing sites by calling the New York State Department of Health at 1-888-364-3065 or contacting your county health department

If my/my child’s school district/university requires diagnostic testing to return to school, would my health insurance cover the cost?

  • No, school-required diagnostic testing for COVID-19 is considered occupational testing and is not a covered health care benefit
  • You can make an appointment to get school-required testing at one of the New York State testing sites by calling the New York State Department of Health at 1-888-364-3065 or contacting your county health department

Will the visit also be covered by my health plan if I think I have the coronavirus?

  • Yes, you will not be responsible for any out-of-pocket costs related to COVID-19 diagnostic testing, including the provider visit
  • This includes any copays, co-insurance or payments towards your deductible that you would normally owe to your provider

Is the coronavirus test and visit covered if I have a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP)/Health Savings Account (HSA)?

  • Yes, costs related to COVID-19 diagnostic testing will be covered before the deductible for members with high deductible health plans and HSAs

Do I have to get preauthorization (prior approval) for the coronavirus test?

  • No, preauthorization is not required for COVID-19 testing

Where can I go to receive the test?

  • If you suspect you have symptoms of COVID-19, please call your provider or use your telemedicine (Doctor on Demand®) benefit
  • Your provider will determine whether you need additional testing and care and, if warranted, will make a specific recommendation on where to go

Can I go to Quest Diagnostics to receive the test?

  • Quest Diagnostics does not currently collect ACTIVE INFECTION coronavirus (COVID-19) testing in their Patient Service Centers
  • If you suspect you have symptoms of COVID-19, please call your provider or connect with them through telemedicine if they offer it
  • Your provider will determine whether you need additional testing and care and, if needed, will make a specific recommendation on where to go

Treatment

If I test positive for the coronavirus, will my treatment be covered?

  • Yes. Effective April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2021 fully-insured Commercial and Medicare Advantage members will not pay for the treatment of an active COVID-19 infection
  • Self-funded members can also elect to offer this coverage
  • If you suspect you have symptoms of the coronavirus, please call your provider or connect with them through telemedicine if they offer it
  • Your provider will determine whether you need additional testing and care and, if needed, will make a specific recommendation on where to go
  • Public health officials urge people to avoid simply showing up at the urgent care or emergency room without calling ahead

Is there a treatment for COVID-19?

  • There are multiple treatments available for COVID-19 that have received FDA approval, FDA Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) and/or have drug guideline support
  • These treatments include:
    • Dexamethasone, remdesivir, barcitinib and COVID-19 convalescent plasma for the treatment of certain cases of COVID-19 in hospitalized patients
    • Two antibody therapies (bamlanivimab-etesevimab and casirivimab-imdevimab) for the treatment of certain mild-moderate cases of COVID-19 in non-hospitalized patients
      • Please note: bamlanivimab when used alone (e.g. not in combination with etesevimab) is no longer recommended by the FDA as of April 16, 2021
  • Our clinical pharmacists have longstanding processes in place to quickly review the safety and effectiveness of any new drugs approved by the FDA that may emerge as treatment for COVID-19
  • As new treatments for COVID-19 are developed, we will ensure that our members have access to medically necessary medications and treatments through their existing benefits
  • There are a number of other medications and treatments that are currently being studied for the treatment of COVID-19

Telehealth

What is telehealth/telemedicine and how do I access it if I think I have the coronavirus?

  • BlueShield strongly recommends members use their existing telehealth benefit to connect with a provider when possible
  • Virtual visits are a safe and effective way for you to consult with a provider from your home, either over the telephone or in a video chat 
  • That’s why we’re expanding coverage to telehealth and temporarily waiving any cost-share for medically necessary virtual visits with your physicians
    • Note: if your telehealth visit is with an out-of-network provider, you may be charged a cost-share according to your out-of-network benefits
  • Your physician may offer telehealth — you should contact them directly for more information
  • If they don’t, your cost-share for telemedicine visits through Doctor on Demand ® is also being temporarily waived
  • To get started, download the Doctor on Demand app or visit our website for step-by-step instructions on how to set up a visit
    • You should select either “Coronavirus (COVID-19) evaluation” or “Coronavirus (COVID-19) education” as a reason for your visit if you feel like you may have been exposed to the coronavirus and require testing

If I have a telehealth visit with my provider for something other than COVID-19, will it be covered?

  • Yes. To keep our community safe and at home, we are temporarily waiving cost-shares for all telehealth visits when your provider feels it’s clinically appropriate
    • Note: if your telehealth visit is with an out-of-network provider, you may be charged a cost-share according to your out-of-network benefits
  • We will also implement this policy for self-funded customers who elect to offer this coverage
  • Please contact your provider for more information
  • If your provider doesn’t offer telehealth, your cost-share for telemedicine visits through Doctor on Demand® is also being temporarily waived
  • To get started, download the Doctor on Demand app or visit our telemedicine page for step-by-step instructions on how to set up a visit
    • You should select either “Coronavirus (COVID-19) evaluation” or “Coronavirus (COVID-19) education” as a reason for your visit if you feel like you may have been exposed to the coronavirus and require testing

When will expanded telehealth coverage end?

  • The $0 cost-share for fully-insured Commercial and Medicare Advantage members for telehealth services will end on June 30, 2021
  • If you are a self-insured member, please check with your group administrator for coverage potential
  • If you are a Federal Employee Program (FEP) member, please visit FEPblue.org/coronavirus-updates to review telehealth coverage and other COVID-19 updates

If I receive mental health services in-person or through telehealth and I am not considered an essential worker, will it be covered?

  • Effective May 2, 2020 we are temporarily waiving any cost-share (excluding Medicare Advantage and HSA-qualified plans) for all fully-insured BlueShield members for outpatient, in-office and telehealth mental health services performed by an in-network provider through June 30, 2021
  • After June 30, 2021 these services will be subject to your regular cost-share
  • If you are a self-insured member, please check with your group administrator for coverage potential

Prescriptions

How can I get a longer supply of my prescription medication?

  • We are committed to helping you access the medications you need during this time and are closely monitoring this evolving situation
  • Currently, we are not aware of any medication shortages related to COVID-19, but will respond swiftly to any updates we may receive from the FDA and our pharmacy partners
  • We encourage you to use your mail order benefit to obtain a 90-day supply of your prescription medication
  • You can also refill or renew your prescription medication at retail pharmacies when 25% of your current prescription is remaining
  • If you have an emergent need to refill your prescription earlier, your dispensing pharmacist may be able to request an emergency waiver
  • Our goal is to ensure that our members can access medications when they need them by avoiding medication stockpiling
  • If you have additional questions about your prescription, contact our pharmacy service team by calling the number on the back of your member ID card

Enjoy the safety and convenience of home delivery from Express Scripts Pharmacy

How do I use my mail order benefit to obtain a 90-day supply of my prescription medication?

  • You can visit bsneny.com/pharmacy, login to your member account to manage your prescriptions, or contact our pharmacy service team by calling the number on the back of your ID card

Enjoy the safety and convenience of home delivery from Express Scripts Pharmacy

How can you ensure my prescriptions will continue to be available?

  • BlueShield monitors guidance from the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), as well as guidance from local, state and federal government and health officials
  • Currently, we have not received confirmation of any medication shortages related to COVID-19, but will respond swiftly to any updates we may receive from the FDA and our pharmacy partners
  • Should BlueShield be alerted to a potential shortage of critical medications, we are prepared to:
    • Work with our Pharmacy Benefits Manager, Express Scripts, to strengthen community pharmacists’ ability to provide early medications if needed; and
    • Make benefit or formulary changes to make alternative medications available to our members

Additional

What can I do if I’m feeling overwhelmed or anxious?

  • Visit the New York State Office of Mental Health’s guide for additional support and ideas on how to manage stress and anxiety related to Coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • If you already see a counselor, ask if they offer telehealth; if they do, you can talk with them from your home
  • You may also have access to mental health counselors and psychiatrists with telemedicine through Doctor on Demand® with no out-of-pocket costs
  • Call us at 1-877-878-8785, option 2, or visit our Behavioral Health Care Management webpage for more information or to connect with a behavioral health care manager

What resources are available to manage stress caused by COVID-19?

What is personal protective equipment (PPE) and why did I receive a charge for it at my provider/dental office?

  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) refers to clothing and safety equipment to protect against injury or infection and can include medical gowns, masks, face shields, safety goggles, and gloves
  • Some offices may be charging a fee for PPE due to COVID-19
    • Please note: you should not be charged a fee for PPE
  • If you have received a fee for PPE (sometimes referred to as an “infection control fee”), please contact us at the number on the back of your member ID card

Protect Yourself Against COVID-19 Scams

How can I report scams or price gouging?

  • We are aware of reported scams and price gouging, specifically related to medical devices or insurance policies
  • We encourage members to treat any COVID-19 phone calls, emails, social media, or text messages with extra caution
  • If you are exposed to scams or price gouging, you can report them to the New York Attorney General’s Office or the Federal Complaint Center
  • We also encourage you to contact us before purchasing unsolicited insurance policies or if you’re asked to change the terms of your current coverage

What can I do to protect myself against scams?

  • Be cautious of unsolicited requests for your Medicare or Medicaid number
  • Scammers are offering COVID-19 tests to Medicare beneficiaries in exchange for personal details, including Medicare information
    • These services are unapproved and illegitimate
  • Fraudsters are targeting beneficiaries in a number of ways, including telemarketing calls, social media platforms, and door-to-door visits
    • The personal information they collect from you can be used to fraudulently bill federal health care programs and commit medical identity theft
    • If Medicare or Medicaid denies the claim for an unapproved test, you could be responsible for the cost
  • Be suspicious of any unexpected calls or visitors offering COVID-19 tests or supplies. If your personal information is compromised, it may be used in other fraud schemes
  • Ignore offers or advertisements for COVID-19 testing or treatments on social media sites
  • A doctor or other trusted health care provider should assess your condition and approve any requests for COVID-19 testing

Source: Office of Inspector General 

COVID-19 and Pregnancy

How does being pregnant affect my risk for COVID-19?

Although no data has been released that suggests you or your child are at greater risk of COVID-19 infection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that pregnant women might be at a higher risk for severe illness or hospitalization once infected.

Follow these steps to minimize exposure:

Practice social distancing

  • Avoid people who are sick or have been exposed to the virus
  • Stay home or at least six feet away from people who do not live in your home
  •  Wear a mask or face covering in public

Wash your hands often

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands

Clean, disinfect, and launder safely

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects like phones, light switches, and doorknobs
  • Launder items, including washable plush toys, by following the label or instructions. Use the warmest appropriate water setting and dry them completely. Dirty laundry from an ill person can be washed with other people’s items, but wash your hands after handling any dirty laundry

Keep your prenatal visits

  • Stay in touch with your health care provider to ensure you’re getting the care you need throughout your pregnancy

What should I do if I’m pregnant or postpartum and have a doctor’s appointment?

Do not skip your prenatal care appointments or postpartum appointments. If you’re concerned about going to your appointment due to COVID-19, talk to your health care provider.

  • Ask your health care provider how they are taking steps to separate healthy patients from those who may be sick.
  • Some providers might choose to cancel or postpone some visits. Others may choose telemedicine visits, which are appointments over the phone or video. Call your health care provider if you have an urgent medical question.
  • In case of emergency, call 911 or go to your local emergency department. Call the emergency department first to explain that you are pregnant and have an emergency. They should have an infection prevention plan to help protect you from getting COVID-19. Do not delay getting emergency care because of COVID-19!

What can I do if I’m pregnant and worried about getting COVID-19?

Pandemics can be stressful, especially when you’re pregnant. Depression during and after pregnancy is common, and it’s important to know that you’re not alone. If you think you may be experiencing depression, talk to your health care provider about how you’re feeling and seek treatment as soon as possible.

You may also benefit from talking to a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist with telehealth from Doctor On Demand. Connecting with a counselor has never been easier, and you can get started from the comfort of your own home. Set up a video appointment by following the steps shown here.

Get immediate help in a crisis

Should I consider having a home birth to avoid the hospital?

Delivery options

In April, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) updated its recommendations on home births, and emphasized that medical settings remain the safest place to give birth. Delivering your baby under the supervision of trained health care professionals is always safest. If you have questions about the best place to deliver your baby, discuss them with your health care provider.

How does COVID-19 affect breastfeeding?

Mothers who breastfeed:

American Rescue Plan Act COBRA Subsidy

What is the COBRA subsidy provision under the American Rescue Plan Act?

  • Under the law signed by President Biden, people on COBRA who lost their employer coverage due to involuntary termination of employment (e.g., layoff) or reduced hours are eligible to have their COBRA coverage fully paid from April 1, 2021 to September 30, 2021

Where can we find eligibility guidelines for COBRA subsidy?

  • Eligibility questions should be reviewed with your legal counsel or COBRA administrator. Additional eligibility details can be found at https://www.dol.gov/COBRA-subsidy

Will groups have to send out a new notice to individual(s) currently on COBRA?

Will the subsidy be applicable to past months?

  • No. The subsidy is only available from April 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021

Why are some people eligible for 18 months of COBRA while others are eligible for 36 months?

  • The federal COBRA period is 18 months. New York State has extended COBRA provisions for up to 36 months. The eligibility period is dependent on your health plan

What if I paid my Direct Bill COBRA invoice for April? How will I be reimbursed?

  • We will send you a refund for your April premium

Who is responsible for managing the COBRA members during the subsidy period?

  • The employer group is responsible for managing all COBRA members during the subsidy period

Once I identify my members who are not eligible for the subsidy, can I move them back to the Direct Bill COBRA group?

  • No. The employer group is responsible for managing all members during the subsidy period

Do COBRA enrollees have the opportunity to elect a different plan than what they had as active employees?

  • COBRA enrollees can choose a different plan than the one they were enrolled in as long as the premium is the same or lower

What if I have a COBRA group? Will a COBRA subgroup be setup under the active group?

  • No. You will continue to manage the COBRA group separately

What happens after September 30, 2021 for my COBRA enrollees?

  • If your enrollee is still within their COBRA coverage period, they may choose to stay on their COBRA coverage by paying the full premium amount (plus any permissible administrative fee charged for their COBRA coverage). Or, they may choose another plan from us through New York State of Health

For employer groups with under 20 eligible employees, who pays the COBRA premium for ARPA-eligible individuals?

  • Highmark Blue Shield of Northeastern New York will pay COBRA premiums for ARPA-eligible individuals in groups with under 20 eligible employees from April 1, 2021 to September 30, 2021

Who will receive the ARPA tax credit for groups with under 20 eligible employees?

  • Because Highmark Blue Shield of Northeastern New York will pay COBRA premiums on behalf of eligible individuals within employer groups with under 20 employees, we will receive the tax credit

For employer groups with under 20 eligible employees, what is the process for new eligible COBRA participants?

  • When we receive a new COBRA application, we will check for an ARPA eligibility form
    • If a completed form is included and the member is eligible, we will not bill premiums for that member and we will pay COBRA premiums on behalf of that member from April 1, 2021 to September 30, 2021
    • If there is no form included, we will send the ARPA eligibility form to the member and they must complete and return it within 60 days

Will you continue to bill Direct Bill COBRA members until they submit ARPA eligibility forms?

  • While we are waiting for eligibility forms to return, we will continue to bill Direct Bill Cobra participants. If Direct Bill COBRA participants provide us with a completed eligibility form and are ARPA eligible, we will refund them for any COBRA premiums they paid after April 1, 2021.

Where can employer groups or members send the ARPA eligibility form?

  • The ARPA eligibility form should be completed and mailed to:
    • BlueShield of Northeastern New York
      Attn: Billing and Enrollment                                 
      PO Box 15013
      Albany, NY 12212
       
  • The eligibility form can also be emailed to           
    • bsneny_enrollment @bsneny.com

Where can I find the eligibility form?

For employer groups with under 20 eligible employees, what is the process for existing COBRA participants?

  • If a member is ARPA eligible and an employer has a COBRA subgroup, we will credit the employer group any COBRA premiums that were paid beginning April 1, 2021 to date
  • If a member is ARPA eligible and an employer has a Direct Bill COBRA arrangement, that member will not be billed until September 30, 2021. Any eligible COBRA premiums the member paid beginning April 1, 2021 to date will be reimbursed to that member

Health & Wellness Resources

Keeping the Home Safe

All Households

  • Clean hands at the door and at regular intervals 
  • Create habits and reminders to avoid touching their face and cover coughs and sneezes
  • Disinfect surfaces like doorknobs, tables, and handrails regularly 
  • Increase ventilation by opening windows or adjusting air conditioning 

Households with vulnerable seniors or those with significant underlying conditions

Significant underlying conditions include heart, lung, kidney disease; diabetes; and conditions that suppress the immune system

  • Have healthy people in the household conduct themselves as if they were a significant risk to the person with underlying conditions. For example, wash hands frequently before interacting with the person, such as by feeding or caring for the person 
  • If possible, provide a protected space for vulnerable household members 
  • Ensure all utensils and surfaces are cleaned regularly

Households with sick family members 

  • Give sick members their own room if possible, and keep the door closed 
  • Have only one family member care for them 
  • Consider providing additional protections or more intensive care for household members over 65 years old or with underlying conditions 

Source: CDC

Lifestyle & Wellness

Lifestyle & Wellness

Emotional well-being is important at every stage of life. When mental health difficulties arise for you or a loved one, you are not alone. We're here for you.

Healthy Tips & Recipes

Look for sustainable, healthy changes that you can easily adopt to your current lifestyle. Make it fun and get the whole family involved.

Stress Management

Feeling Stressed About Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

The outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) may be stressful for people. Fear and anxiety about a virus can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Coping with stress will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger.

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. How you respond to the outbreak can depend on your background, the things that make you different from other people, and the community you live in.

Things you can do to support yourself:

  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep.
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.

Reduce stress in yourself and others

Sharing the facts about COVID-19 and understanding the actual risk to yourself and people you care about can make an outbreak less stressful.

When you share accurate information about COVID-19 you can help make people feel less stressed and allow you to connect with them.

New York State Office of Mental Health Emotional Support Line

The Emotional Support Line, 1-844-863-9314, provides free and confidential support, helping callers experiencing increased anxiety due to the coronavirus emergency. The Help Line is staffed by volunteers, including mental health professionals, who have received training in crisis counseling.

Sources: CDC & NYS OMH

Our Customer Service Team is Here to Help

Call the number on the back of your ID card to speak to one of our team members.

Stay Informed

We encourage all members to create their own account to receive updates about COVID-19, and access doctor, pharmacy and benefit information.

Update Your Contact Info

Check that your email is up to date to stay informed.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Assessment Tool

Additonal COVID-19 Resources