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UnitedHealth Ships Flu Kits to Medicare Recipients

UnitedHealth Ships Flu Kits to Medicare Recipients
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UnitedHealth Ships Flu Kits to Medicare Recipients

UnitedHealth Ships Flu Kits to Medicare Recipients

With Covid-19 hospitalizations spiking once more in lots of components of the nation, public well being officers have expressed considerations a few perennial supply of pressure on the well being care system: seasonal flu. As threats of a “twindemic” loom, well being care staff have confused the necessity for vaccination and different preventive measures to sluggish the unfold of flu.

One insurance coverage firm goes additional to attempt to mitigate the consequences of flu season: UnitedHealthcare, the nation’s largest medical insurance firm, plans to offer at-risk sufferers with 200,000 kits that embrace Tamiflu, the prescription antiviral remedy; a digital thermometer; and a coronavirus P.C.R. diagnostic take a look at. Individuals can take the take a look at at dwelling after which mail it in for laboratory evaluation, serving to sufferers and medical doctors decide the reason for their signs, which is especially vital as a result of the coronavirus and flu have comparable signs however differ in remedy.

“These viruses have confirmed themselves extremely able to placing pressure on our well being care system alone,” stated Dr. Kelly Moore, an affiliate director of the Immunization Motion Coalition. “Their mixed influence is admittedly worrisome.”

In late September, UnitedHealthcare started inviting its Medicare Benefit members to join the kits both on-line or by telephone, beginning with a give attention to these at highest danger of problems from Covid-19 and the flu based mostly on their age and well being standing. Since then, 120,000 folks have enrolled, and the corporate has begun transport the kits. The corporate has greater than 5 million Medicare Benefit members.

The corporate stated supplying folks with Tamiflu prematurely might assist to mitigate the severity of flu infections as a result of the antiviral remedy will get much less efficient with each hour that passes from onset of signs and is just about ineffective after 48 hours. Tamiflu on common shortens the period of sickness by one to 2 days if taken quickly, in line with Dr. Moore. It might additionally assist forestall sickness in somebody at excessive danger of problems who has been uncovered to the flu, however shouldn’t be routinely advisable for preventive use in most populations.

All members signing up for the flu kits needed to verify the state the place they dwell in order that the Tamiflu prescription may very well be distributed by a doctor of their state. They needed to attest, both over the telephone or by a web based kind, that they might wait to take the prescription drug or the coronavirus take a look at till after receiving path from a doctor by a telemedicine appointment, although there isn’t a extra system for verifying this course of as soon as they obtain their kits. Members additionally needed to agree to not give the remedy to others.

“We thought, ‘Think about in case you begin getting sick and already had a mini pharmacy at dwelling,’” stated Dr. Deneen Vojta, govt vice chairman for analysis and growth at UnitedHealthcare. The objective, she added, is to lower the variety of emergency room visits, hospitalizations and deaths ensuing from seasonal flu.

There isn’t any cost for the Tamiflu or the coronavirus take a look at, so long as folks obtain recommendation from a health care provider by way of telemedicine. An organization spokesman stated that the kits might produce financial savings by lowering hospitalizations by preventive care.

Flu package recipients will likely be directed to schedule digital physician’s appointments in the event that they expertise viral signs. The initiative has turn into doable largely due to the general public’s elevated acceptance of telemedicine amid the pandemic. A nationwide survey from Deloitte launched in August discovered that the proportion of well being care customers utilizing digital physician’s visits rose to twenty-eight p.c in April 2020 from 15 p.c in 2019, as sufferers have prevented in-person visits to clinics the place they’re at elevated danger of coronavirus publicity.

UnitedHealthcare’s initiative focused Medicare sufferers as a result of the aged are extra liable to extreme an infection from each the coronavirus and the flu. Covid-19 sufferers who’re over the age of 80 are a whole lot of occasions extra prone to die from the illness than these beneath 40. They’re additionally extra prone to die from the flu — between 70 and 85 p.c of flu-related deaths happen in folks 65 or older, in line with information from the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention.

UnitedHealthcare additionally plans to gather information on co-infection with the coronavirus and flu. Evaluation from Public Well being England confirmed that folks contaminated with each viruses have been greater than twice as prone to die, and most circumstances of co-infection have been in aged populations.

Whereas no different insurance coverage firm has stated it plans to ship out prescription antiviral medicine, Aetna introduced it could ship its 2.7 million Medicare members kits containing a thermometer, hand sanitizer and face masks. Anthem has partnered with group organizations to create 500 native pop-up clinics administering free flu vaccines.

There may be some trigger for optimism about efforts to mitigate the unfold of the flu this 12 months, in line with Dr. Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at Harvard. Australia reported a 99 p.c lower in reported flu infections this 12 months in contrast with 2019, partly because of widespread social distancing.

Individuals ought to nonetheless be making each effort to stop flu an infection by vaccination. “If there’s an overlapping demand from the 2 viruses, it’s going to compound the issue of delivering well being care,” Dr. Lipsitch stated. “Our well being methods are already often stretched by flu season, and may very well be much more stretched by Covid.”

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