COVID-19 response: State retiree health plan says ‘stock up now’ on your meds

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RETIREES BEING GIVEN ACCESS TO TELEMEDICINE

The Alaska Division of Retirement and Benefits is taking proactive steps to try to keep retirees in the State’s AlaskaCare health insurance plan from getting sick. The changes announced today come in response to what the division referred to as a “national public health emergency” due to the COVID-19 virus.

There are about 60,000 retired beneficiaries in the AlaskaCare plan; that include retirees, their spouses, and in some cases their dependents.

The division lifted restrictions on early medication refills for certain prescriptions.

The new policy, valid through the end of March, allows members using the State of Alaska retiree prescription plan OptumRx to refill medications earlier than they typically would “to ensure an adequate supply in the event of unforeseen circumstances.”

The policy does not apply to opioid medications, but does allow retirees to stock up on most of other medications, to assist those who are planning to self-isolate and minimize public contact over coming weeks.

“We are actively working to support health and safety by making early refills or replacements of lost or damaged medications readily available without any additional administrative burden or additional cost. AlaskaCare will be optimizing member benefit flexibility while the potential risk for exposure to the novel coronavirus remains a public health concern,” according to the plan’s home page. 

Members may call their pharmacy and request they transfer prescriptions from the pharmacy to OptumRx Home Delivery. To start home delivery, log in to OptumRx.com, use the OptumRx app, or call (855) 409-6999.

Members may also call OptumRx at (855) 409-6999 and request home delivery prescriptions be transferred to their local pharmacy.

Also, effective March 9, AlaskaCare retiree plan members will have access to a Teladoc service with $0 copay.

This telemedicine service is already available to AlaskaCare current employees, and is being expanded to help former employees of the State of Alaska get access to a doctor without causing strain on what is expected to be a burdened medical system. Additionally, it will help retirees who need more routine care get help they need without going to doctors’ offices or clinics, where they might come in contact with someone with the virus.

A benefit of Teladoc is the ability to fulfill other health care needs that are unrelated to the coronavirus without an appointment or waiting. Using telemedicine can reduce the strain on the local medical system and helps you and your family members avoid unnecessary contact,” the division wrote.

Retirees on AlaskaCare can Register here after March 9 for Teladoc. Mobile App: Teladoc.com/mobile . Phone: (855) TELADOC (835-2362)

The AlaskaCare retiree plan will also waive the member deductible and coinsurance for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza, respiratory panel, and COVID-19 testing that is deemed medically necessary under the terms of the plan. This will be effective as soon as administratively possible, anticipating the week of March 9, 2020, according to the division.

Starting on March 9, 2020, the AlaskaCare retiree health plan temporarily will cover the influenza vaccine received at a pharmacy or other health care provider. Influenza vaccines are already available to AlaskaCare employee plan members. 

The changes will be in effect until the national public health emergency is terminated by the Secretary of Health and Human Services or until 90 days, which ever comes first.

Additional information is available at: AlaskaCare.gov.

To monitor the latest information on COVID-19:

7 COMMENTS

  1. Well that’s great for state employees. What do the rest of us peons do – eat cake ? and live without.

  2. Very irresponsible! The 60,000 participants in the State health plan are prematurely causing a run on essential medications that the rest of Alaska’s chronically ill will have to deal with. Unfortunately, it is typical of the entitlement mentality of the state bureaucracy.

  3. Yeah that’s ridiculous. The same people say Don’t run to Walmart and get hand sanitizer and n95 masks and then call everybody and say stock up on medicine. I say do your own diligence if you feel like the thing to do is stock up on hand sanitizer and masks that helps you sleep better at night then do that and if you feel like you need a supply of medicine to get you through or enough food then do that too take care of yourself don’t rely on the government to do it for you.

  4. Or: Well done, by making it possible to keep vulnerable folks out of circulation and exposure – saving the health plan the obligation of spending 100X as much in a hospital. This is an economically sound approach. As for the rest of us, we can pursue similar approaches – but surely could use a full PFD to help cover any extra costs that arise before the next paycheck or retirement deposit. I’m sure there is a calculus somewhere in state government that figures the increased demands on Medicaid due to a reduction in PFD checks – essentially a regressive tax. Or maybe folks don’t save PFD funds for emergency health care needs.
    And the Teledoc deal is a brilliant approach toward saving the health system a pile of money, for many routine health care needs. Maybe that savings translates to less of our PFD being siphoned off for government. Doubt it – but savings nonetheless.

    • Most of us on Medicare are limited to a 90 day supply of meds as a cost saving measure to the system. It also mitigates short term shortages of drugs that are used by millions of Americans such as insulin. What the State just did was irresponsible & will NOT result in any savings & will almost certainly cost the State money by way of higher premiums next year.

  5. I understand your concern, based on a number of what-ifs that are difficult to nail down with certainty. There is also the cost of medications dispensed that may never be used. And as far as insulin is concerned, I saw somewhere a study that illustrates the federal government’s role in increasing costs 10X by prohibiting the re-importation from neighbors like Canada. $36 per dose to well over $300 after the law change. Nonetheless, seems to me the calculus with ALL the data would support the decision. by no means do they always get it right – just willing to give credit when it appears some serious analysis leads to an out-of-box decision. As a self-insured plan, they can’t rely on an insurance company’s reserves if they make a bad call.

    • Ponderer,
      You’re right. They can’t rely on an insurance company’s reserves if they make a bad call. They rely on more $$ from the citizens. That never ending call to lower our (private sector) standard of living to support and increase theirs (public employees and retirees). Those PERA retirees are living everyone else’s American Dream. They are the new upper middle class. Everyone else must support them.

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