COVID-19: Get answers

We have made temporary changes to our policies to help you access the care you need—with no added worries about cost. These FAQs highlight changes to your employees' benefits.

These changes apply to all plans in the small group and large group fully insured markets. Some self-funded groups chose to opt out of some of these changes.

What we're doing to support your business

Due to the current reduced demand for healthcare services, BCBSRI will issue a 10% medical premium credit for two months to fully insured large group and small group employers, as well as individuals who purchase insurance directly from BCBSRI or through HealthSource RI. Employers who purchase through HealthSource RI also are eligible.

The credit applies to March and April 2020 premiums. BCBSRI will issue a two-month, 10% medical premium credit in September, as long as coverage is active in September. 

The fully insured group must have been covered during the credit period and must be a policyholder at the time the credit is issued.

We recognize the significant challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has created for our customers. One of the ways we are providing financial assistance is through a 25% premium credit for our fully insured dental customers. The credit, which will cover March, April, and May 2020, will appear as a one-time credit on your July invoice if you purchase coverage directly from BCBSRI. If you purchase dental coverage from BCBSRI through HealthSource RI, BCSBRI will be sending a check directly to you in July.

For large group employers, the rate displayed on your monthly invoice may reflect a combination of dental premium and broker fee. Your credit is based only on the premium component of the rate on your invoice. Please speak with your broker or sales executive to get a breakdown of your billed rate.

Federal and state governments have taken action to support employers and their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please check the Resources page on this site for more information.

You also can find resources that you can download and share with your employees on the Employer Toolkit.

BCBSRI is continuing to provide service to our members through this pandemic. 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:

Yes, our service providers also have emergency plans in place and are prepared to meet the needs of our customers.

We have reopened all Your Blue StoreSM locations with new protocols. We also are offering virtual fitness classes through Facebook Live. The classes are Monday through Friday at 10:00 a.m., and we invite members to join us.

Getting back to work

Learn more at ReopeningRI.com

The State of Rhode Island has created a helpful website called ReopeningRI.com. It includes guidelines, checklists, and regulations organized by business type, such as retail stores, restaurants, and childcare centers, as well as general business guidelines. You also can find the overall plan for reopening the state in multiple phases.

You can find current guidelines from the State of Rhode Island at the website ReopeningRI.com. They also provide a template you can use for a COVID-19 Control Plan, a COVID-19 screening tool, checklists, and more specific information depending on your type of business, for example, retail, restaurant, daycare, or transportation.

You can download information, including an employee poster, at ReopeningRI.com, the website created by the State of Rhode Island.

The State of Rhode Island authorized childcare programs to reopen as of June 1, 2020 under new, emergency childcare licensing regulations. Your employees should check with their childcare centers for specific information about their plans.

Public transportation, both transit and rail, is still available, although with reduced hours or other limitations. Additionally, there are guidelines that passengers and employees must follow, including the use of face masks, capacity limits, social distancing, and more. Your employees should consult the State of Rhode Island website, ReopeningRI.com, for more information.

What your employees need to know

You can share the Member section of this site with your employees for important benefit updates and other information related to COVID-19. Check back often—we are working to update the information whenever there are changes.

On our new Employer Toolkit, you can also download ready-to-use emails and guides that you can share with your employees. Please review the content of the emails to make sure they apply to your benefit plan.

The Rhode Island Department of Health provides information specifically for businesses, including:

  • Use of cloth face coverings
  • Returning to work
  • Financial resources for employees

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also updates guidance for businesses:

  • Cleaning and disinfection guidance
  • Best practices for conducting social distancing
  • Strategies and recommendations that can be implemented now

During this time, BCBSRI is allowing employees on unpaid leave or furlough to remain eligible for enrollment in the employee health plan until August 31, 2020, as long as the employee was actively employed the day prior to the leave/furlough and the account stays current on premium. We will take this approach through August 31, 2020, at which time we will determine whether to extend the date.

On the CDC website, you’ll find detailed information on what your employees should do if they feel sick or if they are caring for someone who is, including how to keep others from getting sick, emergency warning signs, and tips for disinfecting their home.

Yes. If COVID-19 antibody testing is ordered for your employee by their healthcare provider and is consistent with FDA guidelines, they will not pay any copays, deductibles, or other cost-sharing. Your employee does not need preauthorization or a referral for testing. BCBSRI does not cover testing for employment-related or “return to work” purposes.

Yes, BCBSRI has expanded coverage to allow you and your employees to get the care you need in your own home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Members can receive treatment over the phone or virtually—such as through telehealth—from in-network providers (including dentists) with no copays, deductibles, or other cost-sharing, when clinically appropriate. (If you administer benefits at a self-funded employer group, check to make sure your employer has chosen to administer benefits in this way.)

You can receive care virtually from the providers you typically see in person or through BCBSRI Doctors Online1 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.

Your provider might decide to use a different platform, and the federal government has just approved several other apps that providers 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.

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.

If your BCBSRI plan includes coverage for Doctors Online, your employees can video chat with a board-certified doctor or licensed therapist on their 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 your employees and family members on their plan (including their children) can use BCBSRI Doctors Online with no copays, deductibles, or other cost-sharing. (If you administer benefits at a self-funded employer group, check to make sure your employer has chosen to administer benefits in this way.)

Your employees can download the BCBSRI Doctors Online1 app from the Apple App Store or Google Play2 or visit drs-online.com.

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.

You can share these tips, which can help your employees keep their information confidential while they are using video to talk with their 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 COVID-19 testing, or medications or supplements that offer protection from COVID-19.

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

  • Doctors' visits, urgent care or emergency room visits that result in COVID-19 testing
  • Treatment for COVID-19 including emergency services, inpatient services, and professional services when received in-network*
  • Services received from an in-network provider (including dentists) over the phone or virtually, such as through telehealth (if you administer benefits at a self-funded employer group, check to make sure your employer has not waived this benefit)

You do not need preauthorization or a referral for these services.

*Not all employers have chosen to cover all of these services without cost share. Please check with your employer to see if these temporary benefits are available under your plan.

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

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 employees can use their account to pay for over-the-counter (OTC) medications without a prescription.
  • They also can use their account to pay for menstrual care products.
  • Telemedicine services, like BCBSRI Doctors Online, can be covered before employees meet their 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 your employees. (If you administer benefits at a self-funded employer group, check to make sure your employer has not waived this benefit.)

These changes have various restrictions and may change. Please contact your BCBSRI account management team if you have any questions.

The Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Treasury have issued guidance that allows coverage of testing and services related to testing and treatment of COVID-19, as well as telemedicine services, before the deductible for people with high-deductible health plans and health savings accounts (HSAs).

Under the Governor’s Executive Order, everyone in Rhode Island must wear face coverings when in a public place, both indoors and outdoors, with limited exceptions. All employees of customer-facing businesses, office-based businesses, manufacturers, and nonprofits, also must wear cloth face coverings when they are at work with limited exceptions. Businesses must provide face coverings for their employees and all customer-facing businesses must take steps to remind customers to wear face coverings by putting up signs at the door reminding customers to wear a face covering inside. You can find detailed information about these regulations at the Reopening RI website as well as on the Commerce RI website.

Your employees can find out where to get a no-cost flu shot at bcbsri.com/flu.

We’ve extended our standard time frame for submitting claims of 365 days by another 180 days. The time frame starts on the date your employee received the service.

We’ve extended our standard time frame for filing an appeal from 180 days to 360 days. The time frame starts on the day your employee received the decision they are appealing.

Effective July 8, 2020, BCBSRI has resumed prior authorization requirements for procedures, diagnostics, therapies, and durable medical equipment as indicated in your employee’s subscriber agreement. For COVID-19 testing or treatment, including inpatient hospital care, employees do not need prior authorization for in-network or out-of-network care. If that inpatient care is out-of-network, they only need to notify BCBSRI. 

Additional information for self-funded groups

Yes, self-funded clients can opt to cover telephone/telehealth treatment with applicable member cost-share. Please contact your account manager for more information about this option.

The choice to opt out is available only at the Account level.

No, coverage of telephonic services is separate from coverage of telehealth services. Self-funded groups that have opted out of telemedicine coverage can still opt in to cover telephone treatment.

Sources: Rhode Island Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The above information is a summary of benefit and practice changes that apply at this time, and is subject to change. It is not a contract. For details about coverage, including any limits and exclusions not noted here, please contact your account management team at BCBSRI.