Coronavirus Lands in Philadelphia

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The Philadelphia Department of Public Health announced that the first case of COVID-19 coronavirus in Philadelphia has been identified. The case is an adult who was recently around people with the disease.
The Health Department has already spoken to a number of people that were exposed and is recommending that they stay away from other people. The Health Department is also working with the patient to identify and reach out to anyone else who may have had close, personal contact with this person to recommend they isolate themselves from others for 14 days.
The City continues to work closely with the health care community in the region, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to try to identify possible cases and work to prevent the spread.
The best way to reduce your risk of becoming infected with, or spreading, COVID-19 coronavirus is to practice good hygiene:
Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water is not available
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
Try to stay away from people who are visibly sick
Everyone should always cover their coughs and sneezes using a tissue or the crook of their elbow; wash your hands after using a tissue to wipe your nose or mouth
People who are sick should stay home from work or school until they are well
If you have any of the following symptoms, contact your regular primary care provider, and let them know if you have been around someone who had COVID-19 coronavirus:
Fever
Cough
Difficulty breathing
To keep up with this rapidly changing situation, visit the Health Department’s dedicated website on the coronavirus: phila.gov/covid-19.
In welcome news for Philadelphians, Gov. Tom Wolf announced this week that all major health insurers providing comprehensive medical coverage in the commonwealth will cover medically appropriate COVID-19 diagnostic testing and associated treatment for consumers and have committed to waive any cost-sharing for the testing.
“First and foremost, the commonwealth is prepared for and focused on mitigating COVID-19 in our state,” Gov. Wolf said. “Pennsylvania insurers proactively waiving costs associated with COVID-19 testing for consumers helps the commonwealth identify additional cases and gives us a better opportunity to increase our resources appropriately and better protect all Pennsylvanians. No Pennsylvanian should forego testing for any reason, if deemed medically necessary, including fear of what it might cost.”
The Department of Insurance encourages patients to be aware of steps their insurance company is taking to increase access to necessary care related to COVID-19.
Pennsylvania’s major health insurers, all of whom have committed to take this critical step, are Highmark, UPMC Health Plan, Geisinger, Independence BlueCross, Capital Blue Cross, Aetna, Cigna, UnitedHealthcare, Pennsylvania Health & Wellness, and Oscar. This increased access to testing is especially critical as multiple commercial medical labs are in the process of implementing testing capabilities and some have begun to perform tests. This means labs will begin billing insurance for the COVID-19 test as they would for any other diagnostic test. Up until now, testing has only been performed by the CDC or state labs, who have covered the cost of testing with public funds.
“I’m pleased that Pennsylvania’s health insurance companies are stepping up to help fight the spread of COVID-19, commonly known as coronavirus,” Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman said. “Covering the costs associated with administering testing will ensure that consumer out-of-pocket costs do not serve as a barrier to the diagnoses and care of Pennsylvanians.”
The department recognizes the critical role health insurers have in the public’s ability to access health care services, which could ultimately help decrease the spread of the virus. Consumers with excepted benefit policies, short-term, limited duration health insurance coverage, and/or health care sharing ministries need to understand these plans can have significant limitations on coverage and may not provide the same level of access. If any consumer has a question about their insurance policy, the department encourages them to contact their insurer or the department with any questions.
COVID-19 is currently not widespread in Pennsylvania. Because COVID-19 is most commonly spread through respiratory droplets, Pennsylvanians should take the same steps that health care providers recommend to prevent the spread of the flu and other viruses, including washing your hands, avoiding touching your face and covering coughs and sneezes.
Public health officials are urging people who have symptoms to stay home and contact their doctors by phone, rather than showing up at a medical facility asking to be tested.
The Insurance Department, in partnership with the departments of Health and Human Services, also developed an FAQ webpage – www.health.pa.gov/topics/disease/Pages/Coronavirus-Insurance.aspx – that provides information and answers to common questions related to insurance coverage and COVID-19.
The Pennsylvania Insurance Department has a consumer services team available to answer questions about insurance coverage and benefits at (877) 881-6388. PID may also provide assistance if a consumer receives an unexpected bill related to COVID-19, or other health care services.

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