Ask your healthcare providers about getting a flu shot
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone six months of age and older get a flu shot each year. It’s especially important for young children, pregnant women, adults 60+ years and anyone who has chronic medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease or asthma, as these folks are at a higher risk for severe complications from the flu.
While getting a flu shot is an important part of preventive wellness every year, it will be especially important this year, given the added threat of COVID-19 overlapping with flu season. Flu season typically begins in October and lasts until April or May, with cases peaking in late winter. Getting the shot will lower your risk of getting the flu and spreading it to others, and limiting flu cases as much as possible will reduce strain on the healthcare system.
Most health plans and Medicare plans cover the annual flu shot for $0 or very low cost. Make an appointment with your healthcare provider or pharmacist to get your flu shot as soon as possible.
Keeping up with your care
As people are staying at home because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), you may be wondering how you can keep up with your primary care provider or specialist visits for other health needs.
Good news: Many healthcare providers are now offering telehealth services, which you can do from the comfort and safety of home.
If you have not had an annual wellness visit yet this year, or if you put off your annual wellness visit or a health screening like a mammogram or colonoscopy because of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, reach out to your healthcare provider to reschedule this right away. Telehealth may be an option for you to have your annual wellness visit.
With telehealth, you can have online visits with healthcare providers from your computer, smartphone, tablet or any device with internet and a camera.
To get started, check with your usual primary care provider and any specialists you see to ask if they offer telehealth services.
How does telehealth work?
Telehealth is very similar to an in-person visit and is a legitimate way to get care for routine, non-emergency illnesses or have check-ups for long-term conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease. In most cases, healthcare providers can give you a new prescription or a refill through telehealth. There are some types of drugs that cannot be prescribed in online visits.
In an online visit, you and the healthcare provider can still see and talk to each other. You may even feel more comfortable asking questions or discussing your health situation because you are in the privacy of your home.
Online visits usually last around the same amount of time as in-person visits. Before your visit begins, you should write a list of questions you want to ask or concerns you want to bring up. This will help you make the most of your time with the healthcare provider.
What if I need to be seen in person?
As with any healthcare service, you should follow the provider’s guidance. If you have a telehealth visit and the provider tells you that you should come to the office to be treated or that you need services that can’t be handled remotely, like lab work or testing, follow his/her advice. Ask your healthcare provider about how soon you should be seen in person and what is the safest way for you to leave home for care.
When you go to your in-person appointment, you should wear a face mask and keep at least six feet away from others. Your healthcare provider’s office may require you to wear a mask and may have other rules to limit contact between patients. You should call the office before you go in to find out about anything you need to do. If you are unable to follow their requirements, you should let them know before you arrive.
How do I know what kinds of telehealth services are covered on my plan and what it costs?
You can contact Customer Service at the number on your member ID card to ask about how telehealth visits are covered on your plan and which healthcare providers are in your network.
Please be aware that because more people are using telehealth right now, you may have a longer wait time.
Why is it important for me to keep up with my primary care provider?
You should have a primary care provider you see for most of your healthcare, when you are sick or injured. You should see your primary care provider at least once a year for an annual wellness checkup. If you have a long-term health condition like diabetes or high blood pressure, you should see your primary care provider more often to make sure your numbers are in a healthy range and keep track of any changes.
Even if you are staying at home because of COVID-19, it’s important to still have checkups on the schedule your primary care provider recommends. Telehealth can be a great way to do this.
If you have any specialists, like endocrinologists, cardiologists or orthopedists, whom you see regularly, you should ask them if you can do telehealth visits, too.
What about emergencies?
If you have an emergency health need or get seriously injured, you should go to the nearest hospital or healthcare facility for care. The staff there will be prepared to help you get treated while avoiding being exposed to COVID-19 or other illnesses that can spread person to person.
It is important not to delay seeking care you need because the sooner you are treated, the lower your risk of more serious outcomes.