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 benefits as well as important information and resources about COVID-19.
These changes apply to plans in the individual, small group, and large group fully insured markets. Please note that some employers have opted out of some of these changes. If you have questions about your benefits, please check with your employer or call BCBSRI Customer Service at the number on the back of your member ID card.
Care and benefits
Will BCBSRI credit me for any of the premiums I paid during the pandemic?
Due to the current reduced demand for healthcare services, BCBSRI will issue a 10% medical premium credit for two months to:
- Employers who are insured with BCBSRI
- Individuals who purchase insurance directly from BCBSRI
- Individuals or employers who purchase BCBSRI insurance through HealthSource RI
For customers who purchase coverage directly from BCBSRI, the credit is for March and April 2020 premiums and will be applied to the September premium bill. Customers who purchased their coverage through HealthSource RI will receive a check.
Who is eligible for the premium credit?
The premium credit will apply to members who purchase insurance directly from BCBSRI or through HealthSource RI. The member must have been covered during the credit period and must be a policyholder at the time the credit is issued.
I get my health insurance through my employer. Will I get a credit?
BCBSRI will credit the employers directly. Check with your employer to learn if that credit will be applied to you.
Should I get tested for COVID-19? Is there a cost for the test?
The Rhode Island Department of Health recommends that anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should be tested. The symptoms of COVID-19 include:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle pain
- Repeated shaking with chills
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- Headache, or new loss of taste or smell
Some people with COVID-19 only experience one or two mild symptoms. Anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should not go to a doctor’s office, urgent care center, or emergency room without calling their doctor first (except in a medical emergency).
You will not pay any copays, deductibles, or other cost-sharing for clinically appropriate COVID-19 testing ordered by a provider, and you do not need preauthorization or a referral for testing. You can find information about testing sites on the Rhode Island Department of Health website.
The Rhode Island Department of Health 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.
I don't have any symptoms. Should I get tested anyway?
Decisions about testing should be made with your healthcare provider and may include testing of asymptomatic individuals with known or suspected recent exposure to COVID-19, that is determined to be medically appropriate by the individual’s healthcare provider, consulting CDC guidelines as appropriate.
The State also is making “asymptomatic testing” available to certain Rhode Islanders, according to the Rhode Island Department of Health. People who work in the following settings are invited to get asymptomatic testing:
- Public transportation
- Hair salons
- Barber shops
- Nail salons
- Tanning facilities
In addition, people who have recently attended a large protest or demonstration are encouraged to get tested.
Learn more about these tests on the Rhode Island Department of Health website.
Is COVID-19 antibody testing covered?
Yes. If COVID-19 antibody testing is ordered for you by your healthcare provider and is consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, you will not pay any copays, deductibles, or other cost-sharing. You do not need preauthorization or a referral for testing. An antibody test can tell you if you had a previous infection of COVID-19. It may not be able to show if you have a current infection, because it can take one to three weeks to make antibodies after symptoms occur.
Will BCBSRI cover costs related to COVID-19?
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, 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 (not all employers have chosen to offer this benefit, so please check with your employer to see if this temporary benefit is available under your plan)
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.
Can I get care from my provider over the phone or through video?
Yes, BCBSRI has expanded coverage so you can 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 in-network providers (including dentists) with no copays, deductibles, or other cost-sharing, when clinically appropriate. (Not all employers have chosen to offer this benefit. Please check with your employer to see if this temporary benefit is available under your plan.)
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.
Your provider might decide to use a different platform, and the federal government has approved several other apps that providers can use:
- Apple FaceTime
- Facebook Messenger video chat
- Google Hangouts video
Applications that are more public, such as Facebook Live, Twitch, and TikTok, should not be used.
How can I protect my privacy when talking to a doctor online?
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 COVID-19 testing, or medications or supplements that offer protection from COVID-19.
How can I use BCBSRI Doctors Online?
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. (Not all employers have chosen to offer this benefit. Please check with your employer to see if this temporary benefit is available under your plan.)
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.
I understand you are offering relief on dental premiums. Can you provide the details?
We recognize the significant challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has created for our members. One of the ways we are providing financial assistance is through a 25% premium credit for our fully insured dental customers. The credit will cover March, April, and May 2020. Here is how the credit will work:
- If you purchase dental coverage directly from BCBSRI, you will receive a one-time credit on your July invoice.
- If you purchase dental coverage from BCBSRI through HealthSource RI, BCBSRI will send you a check in July.
As a Medicare Advantage member, do I still need to get referrals?
Under the guidance of The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), BCBSRI has made a temporary change to our referral policy to help our Medicare Advantage members access the care they need during this pandemic—with no added worries about cost. Effective March 1, 2020, we are waiving all referral requirements for our Medicare Advantage plans—regardless of plan. Any Medicare Advantage claims that were denied for not having a referral with a date of service of March 1, 2020, or after will be adjusted, and we will make the appropriate payments.
As a Medicare Advantage member, can I only receive in-network services?
Under the guidance of The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), BCBSRI has made a temporary change to our provider policy to help our Medicare Advantage members access the care they need during this pandemic —with no added worries about cost. Effective March 1, 2020, we are providing the same cost-sharing for both in- and out-of-network services. Any Medicare Advantage claims that were charged an out-of-network claim rate with a date of service of March 1, 2020, or after will be adjusted, and we will make the appropriate payments.
As a Medicare Advantage member, if I test positive for COVID-19 can I get meals delivered at home?
Yes, BCBSRI is providing additional temporary meal benefits to help members who have tested positive for COVID-19. You may receive a call from Independent Living Systems, or you can contact them at 866-405-3433 for more information if you tested positive for COVID-19.
What are the new rules for HSAs, HRAs, and FSAs?
The 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. (Not all employers have chosen to offer this benefit, so please check with your employer to see if this temporary benefit is available under your plan.)
These changes have various restrictions and may change. Please contact your employer or the BCBSRI Customer Service team if you have any questions.
Are Your Blue Store locations still open?
Can I still get a flu shot?
BCBSRI members can find out where to get a no-cost flu shot at bcbsri.com/flu.
I paid for a healthcare service up front and need to get reimbursed. How long do I have to submit my claim?
We’ve extended our standard time frame for submitting claims of 365 days by another 180 days. The time frame starts on the date you received the service.
How long do I have to file an appeal?
We’ve extended our standard time frame for filing an appeal from 180 days to 360 days. The time frame starts on the day you received the decision you are appealing.
Is my doctor still required to get prior authorization (preapproval) for services?
Effective July 8, 2020, BCBSRI will resume prior authorization requirements for procedures, diagnostics, therapies, and durable medical equipment as indicated in your subscriber agreement. For COVID-19 testing or treatment, including inpatient hospital care, you do not need prior authorization for in-network or out-of-network care. If that inpatient care is out-of-network, you only need to notify BCBSRI.
Will my benefits change now that the state is easing restrictions around COVID-19?
Some of the temporary benefit changes we made around COVID-19 have ended. We have updated these FAQs to reflect these changes to date, but if you have questions, please contact us.
What can I expect if I go back to work?
State recommendations for businesses include asking employees to answer a questionnaire about your risk factors, wear a face mask, keep six feet apart, and practice proper cleaning and hygiene. You should speak with your employer about the specifics of your workplace.
Will childcare be available for my children?
The State of Rhode Island has authorized childcare programs to reopen as of June 1, 2020 under new, emergency childcare licensing regulations. You should check with your local childcare centers for specific information about their plans.
Will public transportation be available?
Public transportation is generally still available, although with reduced hours or other limitations. Additionally, there are guidelines that you must follow, including wearing a face mask and observing rules on social distancing and passenger capacity limits. Consult the State of Rhode Island website, ReopeningRI.com, for more information.
What is the Crush COVID RI app?
The app provides Rhode Islanders access to resources that may be helpful during the public health crisis, including a location diary that helps users identify the people and places they are in contact with and a symptom checking survey. The State is encouraging all Rhode Islanders to use the CRUSH COVID RI app.
When can I get a haircut?
On June 1, 2020, barbershops and salons were allowed to open with restrictions. For more information about updates and guidelines for businesses in Rhode Island, please check out the state’s ReopeningRI.com website.
What is coronavirus disease 2019 (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.
What are the symptoms and complications that COVID-19 can cause?
The symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, muscle pain, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache, or new loss of taste or smell. Some people with COVID-19 only experience one or two mild symptoms. Read more about symptoms and find the Self-Checker tool on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.
Is there a vaccine?
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.
Is there a treatment?
There is currently no specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19. People with COVID-19 can seek medical care to help relieve symptoms.
How is COVID-19 spread?
Information provided by the CDC indicates the virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly from person to person, mainly through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Spread is more likely when people are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community (“community spread”) in many affected geographic areas. Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.
On the CDC website, see How COVID-19 Spreads.
I may be at higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 illness. Is there anything additional I should do to protect myself?
Yes, the CDC has recommendations for people at high risk. You can find detailed information on the CDC website.
Should I wear a face mask?
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. For information about those exceptions and additional information about masks, please see this Reopening Rhode Island advisory sheet.
Who must quarantine due to high risk for developing COVID-19?
Quarantine is for people who are not sick, but may have been exposed to COVID-19. In Rhode Island, the following people must quarantine for 14 days:
- Anyone coming from a location outside the 50 U.S. states or the District of Columbia
- People coming to Rhode Island from states with a positivity rate of COVID-19 of greater than 5%
- Close contacts of someone who has symptoms of COVID-19, even if they haven’t been tested, for 14 days following contact
For more information, please visit the Rhode Island Department of Health.
What should I do if I or someone in my family is sick?
On the CDC website, you’ll find detailed information on what to do if you are sick or if you are caring for someone who is, including how to keep others from getting sick, emergency warning signs, and tips for disinfecting your home.
How can I reduce my risk of COVID-19 and other diseases?
Please see these tips for protecting yourself and others from COVID-19.
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 call us at (401) 459-5000 or 1-800-639-2227 (TTY/TDD: 711).