What you need to know about coronavirus

This page was last updated 4-6-2020

Read a message from Kim A. Keck, President and CEO of Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island

At Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, our top priority is the health and well-being of our members, our employees, and our community. We are in contact with state officials to make sure you have the information you need about the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

To increase access to care and protect our members, customers, and employees during this pandemic, we have made temporary changes, including:

  • Covering COVID-19 testing consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines without any copays, deductibles, or other cost-sharing for all members who meet testing guidelines 
  • Covering clinically appropriate doctors’ visits, emergency room visits, or inpatient care related to COVID-19 without any copays, deductibles, or other cost-sharing
  • Removing prior authorization and referral requirements for testing and clinically appropriate treatment of COVID-19
  • Allowing members to fill most prescriptions earlier than the standard 30 days
  • Expanding coverage by eliminating copays, deductibles, or other cost-sharing for care that is delivered by phone or virtually, such as through telehealth, by in-network providers (including dentists) when clinically appropriate
  • Closing all Your Blue Store℠ locations until further notice

You can find out more about these changes and other COVID-19 related information in the resources below.

These tips will help you stay healthy and prevent the spread of COVID-19, flu, and other diseases.

  1. Take everyday steps to limit the spread of germs.
    These steps can help you reduce your risk of COVID-19 and other diseases:
    • Wash your hands often throughout the day. If water and soap are not available, use alcohol-based hand gel.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
    • Cough or sneeze into your elbow.
    • Keep surfaces clean by wiping them down with a household disinfectant, especially bedside tables, surfaces in the bathroom, and children’s toys.
    • Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious foods.
  2. Avoid close personal contact with people in public.
    When greeting people, avoid handshakes and hugs and don’t go to crowded places, large events, and mass gatherings. However, you should continue doing essential errands (such as going to the grocery store).
  3. If you think you may have COVID-19, call your doctor before going to a healthcare facility. 
    Anyone
    experiencing a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing should not go to a doctor’s office, urgent care center, or emergency room without calling their doctor first (except in a medical emergency). Tell your doctor if you have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, or if you live in or have recently traveled from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19. Your doctor will tell you whether, when, and where to receive care. They will also work with your state’s public health department and the CDC to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19. The Rhode Island Department of Health (DOH) also has a COVID-19 Info Line at (401) 222-8022, which is available Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. After hours, you can call 211.
  4. Don’t forget the flu—and get your flu shot if you haven’t already.
    It's not too late to get vaccinated against the flu. BCBSRI members can find out where to get a no-cost flu shot at bcbsri.com/flu.

COVID-19 Tips

These tips will help you stay healthy and prevent the spread of COVID-19, flu, and other diseases.

These steps can help you reduce your risk of COVID-19 and other diseases:

  • Wash your hands often throughout the day. If water and soap are not available, use alcohol-based hand gel.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow.
  • Keep surfaces clean by wiping them down with a household disinfectant, especially bedside tables, surfaces in the bathroom, and children’s toys.
  • Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious foods.

When greeting people, avoid handshakes and hugs and don’t go to crowded places, large events, and mass gatherings. However, you can continue doing essential errands (such as going to the grocery store).

Anyone experiencing a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing should not go to a doctor’s office, urgent care center, or emergency room without calling their doctor first (except in a medical emergency). Tell your doctor if you have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, or if you live in or have recently traveled from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19. Your doctor will tell you whether, when, and where to receive care. They will also work with your state’s public health department and the CDC to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19.

You will not need to pay any copays, deductibles, or other cost-sharing for services received from an in-network provider over the phone or virtually, such as through telehealth, when clinically appropriate. The Rhode Island Department of Health (DOH) also has a COVID-19 Info Line at (401) 222-8022, which is available Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. After hours, you can call 211.

It's not too late to get vaccinated against the flu. BCBSRI members can find out where to get a no-cost flu shot at bcbsri.com/flu.

COVID-19 FAQs

Care and Benefits

Anyone experiencing a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing should not go to a doctor’s office, urgent care center, or emergency room without calling their doctor first (except in a medical emergency). Tell your doctor if you have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, or if you live in or have recently traveled from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19. Your doctor will tell you whether, when, and where to receive care. They will also work with your state’s public health department and the CDC to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19. You will not need to pay any copays, deductibles, or other cost-sharing for services received from an in-network provider over the phone or virtually, such as through telehealth, when clinically appropriate.

BCBSRI has made temporary changes to our policies to help you access the care you need—with no added worries about cost. You will not pay any copays, deductibles, or other cost-sharing for:

  • Clinically appropriate doctors' visits, emergency room visits, or inpatient care related to COVID-19
  • COVID-19 testing consistent with CDC guidelines for all members who meet testing guidelines 
  • Services received from an in-network provider (including dentists) over the phone or virtually, such as through telehealth, when clinically appropriate

The Rhode Island Department of Health (DOH) also has a COVID-19 Info Line at (401) 222-8022, which is available Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. After hours, you can call 211. You can also call your state’s epidemiology office if you suspect a COVID-19 exposure or infection.

Yes, BCBSRI has expanded coverage to allow you to get the care you need in your own home during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can receive treatment over the phone or virtually—such as through telehealth—from an in-network providers (including dentists) with no copays, deductibles, or other cost-sharing, when clinically appropriate. You can receive care virtually from the providers you typically see in person or through  BCBSRI Doctors Online if that service is available with your plan. BCBSRI Doctors Online can be used for common, non-emergency health issues 24/7 as well as for scheduled therapy sessions and psychiatry visits.

If it is available with your BCBSRI health plan, you can use Doctors Online, which is designed to be secure and where you can see a board-certified doctor or licensed therapist.

To increase access to care during the COVID-19 pandemic, you can also receive virtual care from in-network providers (including dentists) you usually see in person. Your provider might decide to use a different platform, and the federal government has just approved several other apps that doctors can use:

  • Apple FaceTime
  • Facebook Messenger video chat
  • Google Hangouts video
  • Skype

Applications that are more public, such as Facebook Live, Twitch, and TikTok, should not be used.

These tips can help you keep your information confidential while you are using video to talk with your doctor:

  • Find a private location within your home or wherever you are using it so there is no one looking over your shoulder or listening to you.
  • Don’t use a public computer and try not to use a public or unsecured internet connection.
  • Make sure you know who you’re talking to. If you’re not sure, verify the provider’s phone number and call their office to confirm.
  • Be on guard against unsolicited calls offering services, such as coronavirus testing, or medications or supplements that offer protection from the coronavirus.

If your BCBSRI plan includes coverage for Doctors Online, you can video chat with a board-certified doctor or licensed therapist on your smartphone, tablet, or computer. BCBSRI Doctors Online is available for common, non-emergency health issues 24/7 as well as for scheduled therapy sessions and psychiatry visits. We have also temporarily changed our policies so you and family members on your plan (including your children) can use BCBSRI Doctors Online with no copays, deductibles, or other cost-sharing. 

You can download the BCBSRI Drs. Online1 app from the Apple App Store or Google Play2 or visit drs-online.com. Have your BCBSRI member ID information handy.

1BCBSRI Doctors Online is not available with all plans. In the case of an emergency, you should always call 911. Doctors Online is not intended to replace these services and should not be used in those circumstances. Doctors Online is a telemedicine service provided by American Well®, an independent company that administers Doctors Online on behalf of BCBSRI.

2Apple and the Apple logo are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. App Store is a service mark of Apple Inc. Google Play is a trademark of Google Inc.

Yes, we have made temporary changes to our policies to help you access the care you need—with no added worries about cost. You will not pay any copays, deductibles, or other cost-sharing for:

  • Clinically appropriate doctors' visits, emergency room visits, or inpatient care related to COVID-19
  • COVID-19 testing consistent with CDC guidelines for all members who meet testing guidelines 
  • Services received from an in-network provider (including dentists) over the phone or virtually, such as through telehealth, when clinically appropriate

If the COVID-19 test is consistent with CDC guidelines and you meet the guidelines for the test, there is no preauthorization required, and BCBSRI will cover the cost of the test. You will not need to pay any copays, deductibles, or other cost-sharing.

We have temporarily changed our policy so you can refill prescriptions earlier than the standard 30 days. This applies to all medications except a few, such as opioids. If your plan includes a 90-day retail option, the early refill policy will also apply. Please talk with your pharmacist about this option.

It’s not too late to get a flu shot. BCBSRI members can find out where to get a no-cost flu shot at bcbsri.com/flu.

The new Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act made these changes to health savings accounts (HSAs), health reimbursement accounts (HRAs), and flexible spending accounts (FSAs):

  • Now you can use your account to pay for over-the-counter (OTC) medications without a prescription.
  • You also can use your account to pay for menstrual care products.
  • Telemedicine services, like BCBSRI Doctors Online, can be covered before you meet your deductible on a high-deductible health plan, for a limited time. To increase access to care during the COVID-19 pandemic, BCBSRI is temporarily covering in-network telemedicine services at no cost to you.

These changes have various restrictions and may change. Please contact your employer or the BCBSRI Customer Service team if you have any questions.

What BCBSRI is doing

We have emergency plans in place to ensure we can continue providing quality service to our members through any outbreak. To help protect the health and safety of our employees and members, we’re following the recommendations of the Rhode Island Department of Health and the CDC. This includes:

  • Having all staff who can work at home do so while also providing uninterrupted service to our customers 
  • Communicating regularly with members, employers, and providers about COVID-19 updates
  • Encouraging employees to regularly wash their hands and follow other hygiene precautions
  • Encouraging employees to stay home if they’re not feeling well
  • Asking employees who have traveled internationally,flown domestically, or traveled between states in the last 14 days and going forward to remain at home until 14 symptom-free days have passed 
  • Closing all Your Blue Store locations until further notice

Protecting the health of our members, employees, and community remains our top priority at BCBSRI. With this in mind, we have made the difficult and precautionary decision to close all Your Blue Store locations. The stores will be closed until further notice.

About COVID-19

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China.

Current symptoms reported for patients with COVID-19 have included mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Read more about symptoms on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

There is currently no vaccine to protect against COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19.

There is no specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19. People with COVID-19 can seek medical care to help relieve symptoms.

This virus appears to spread like many other respiratory viruses—between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) and through droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

Some recent studies have suggested that COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms. Maintaining good social distance (about 6 feet) is very important in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Yes, the CDC has recommendations for people at high risk. You can find detailed information on the CDC website.

The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

It is critical to emphasize that maintaining 6 feet of social distancing remains important to slowing the spread of the virus. CDC is additionally advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.

The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance. To read more, please visit the CDC.

Be sure to stay updated on the latest recommendations from the Rhode Island Department of Health and the CDC and plan as you would for other emergencies—have backup plans for work and child care. It’s also important to keep extra food, prescription and over-the-counter medicines, and medical supplies on hand. 

You can take these steps:

  • Wash your hands often throughout the day. If water and soap are not available, use alcohol-based hand gel.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow.
  • Keep surfaces clean by wiping them down with a household disinfectant, especially bedside tables, surfaces in the bathroom, and children’s toys.
  • Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious foods.
  • Avoid close personal contact with people in public. When greeting people, avoid handshakes and hugs and don’t go to crowded places, large events, and mass gatherings. However, you can continue doing essential errands (such as going to the grocery store).

Find a Doctor

Need care but don’t have a doctor? Use our tool to find a provider in our network.

BCBSRI Doctors Online

Your BCBSRI plan may include 24/7 video chat with a board-certified doctor on your smartphone, tablet, or computer. This service is temporarily available at no cost to you.*

*BCBSRI Doctors Online is not available with all plans. In the case of an emergency, you should always call 911. Doctors Online is not intended to replace these services and should not be used in those circumstances. Doctors Online is a telemedicine service provided by American Well®, an independent company that administers Doctors Online on behalf of BCBSRI.


Helpful Resources

Looking for additional information? These resources can help.

Find updated information on COVID-19 in Rhode Island.

This comprehensive resource offers prevention information, a map of affected areas, resources for individuals with COVID-19, and more information.

It’s not too late to get a no-cost flu shot. Find a location.

BHLink
Rhode Island adults experiencing mental health and substance use crises can receive the appropriate services they need by calling (401) 414-LINK (5465). 

Kids’ Link RI™ 
This 24/7 hotline for kids in emotional crisis—1-855-543-5465—is offered in collaboration with Gateway Healthcare, Lifespan, Hasbro Children's Hospital and Bradley Hospital.

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association offers tips and resources for protecting against healthcare fraud during these uncertain times.

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