New Bulletin Provides Recommendations to Insurers During COVID-19

Insurers asked to waive prior authorization requirements, cease cancellations and nonrenewals due to missed or delayed payments

Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro and the Delaware Department of Insurance today issued a bulletin with recommended actions for the insurance industry. Requests included asking health insurers waive all prior authorization constraints for lab testing and future treatment of COVID-19, and that insurers consider ceasing cancellations or nonrenewals of insurance policies due to nonpayment throughout the duration of the declared Delaware State of Emergency.

“The insurance industry has the opportunity to help tens of thousands of Delaware residents, businesses, and healthcare providers during this state of emergency,” said Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro. “Waiving prior authorization requirements would help the entire healthcare system to run more efficiently and allow providers to focus on patient outcomes rather than paperwork.”

Prior authorization is a process that requires certain tests, medications, or other health services to be pre-approved by an insurance company before a medical provider serves an insured consumer, which can at times result in delays. Should prior-authorization be voluntarily waived by insurers, that would not mean that residents should not be in contact with their primary care provider prior to visiting a COVID-19 testing site.

The bulletin also asked insurance carriers to voluntarily freeze cancellations and nonrenewals of policies that might have otherwise occurred due to delays in payments through the duration of the state of emergency.

“Throughout Delaware’s State of Emergency, many companies have had to close or reduce their business, and employees have been laid off or fired as a result,” Commissioner Navarro explained. “After hearing from businesses and residents who were concerned about the choices they will have to make with limited finances, we ask insurers to help alleviate some of that stress and ensure that residents and business owners in this difficult situation can have the peace of mind that insurance provides throughout the duration of the emergency.”

Business interruption coverage will vary policy to policy, and some business interruption coverage may explicitly exclude viral infections. Companies are urged to review their related insurance policies and contact their insurance company with questions about coverage. Hospitality small businesses and nonprofits may be able to apply for no-interest loans from the Division of Small Business Hospitality Emergency Loan Program (HELP). Organizations can receive a $10,000 maximum loan per month for rent, utilities, and other unavoidable, non-personnel bills.

On March 18, Governor Carney’s updated State of Emergency Declaration waived certain telemedicine regulations to expand access to these services. The Governor clarified that residents do not need to see a provider in-person before receiving telemedicine services, and that if a Delaware resident is out-of-state, they can still receive telemedicine services. To increase availability of these services, out-of-state providers who are licensed to provide telemedicine in other jurisdictions will also be able to serve Delaware residents through the duration of the emergency declaration. Telehealth and telemedicine can be provided via phone, webcam, facetime, and a myriad of other easily accessible options, as the department recently reminded insurers via bulletin.

Department of Insurance March 20 Bulletin

National Association of Insurance Commissioner’s COVID-19 and Insurance Brief

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DNREC postpones public events

DOVER, Del. – As public health officials continue to monitor and respond to the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control is focused on taking a proactive and preventative approach to keep communities safe.

Governor John Carney has issued a State of Emergency declaration to help prepare for the spread of this disease. All state offices, parks and education centers remain open during normal operating hours at this time, but the Department is implementing social distancing measures.

On Friday, DNREC divisions and programs began postponing events in the next two weeks expected to have more than 100 attendees, to include volunteer cleanups, meetings and conferences scheduled. Events being postponed include the annual DuPont Nature Center spring cleanup scheduled for Saturday, March 14 and the annual beach grass planting at multiple beaches in the state scheduled for Saturday, March 21.

Additional events and programs, regardless of attendance numbers, may also be postponed.

Information about whether individual events are to be postponed or will continue will be posted to the online events calendar, parks program calendar and social media pages, Facebook and Twitter.

For the latest information in Delaware, visit de.gov/coronavirus.

About DNREC

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control protects and manages the state’s natural resources, protects public health, provides outdoor recreational opportunities and educates Delawareans about the environment. For more information, visit the website and connect with @DNREC on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Media Contact: Nikki Lavoie, nikki.lavoie@delaware.gov

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Commissioner Navarro Issues Bulletin to Insurers Regarding Coronavirus

Insurers required to cover testing and telemedicine services related to COVID-19

While no active cases of the virus have been confirmed in Delaware to date, Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro notified insurers today of their duties related to COVID-19. In a bulletin to insurance companies, the Commissioner reminded Delaware’s health insurers that testing for COVID-19 is a covered essential health benefit and that access to telehealth and telemedicine services should be made available.

“Concerns around the cost of care for coronavirus may be a significant factor in residents deciding not to seek out medical interventions when symptoms arise, leading to negative health impacts on the individual, and an increased possibility of the spread of the virus,” said Commissioner Navarro. “Ensuring testing and expanding telemed options may be the biggest thing we can do to prevent the escalation of new transmissions.”

The bulletin notes that some insurers have taken additional steps to meet the challenges posed by the virus, including waiving cost sharing. “I applaud those carriers who have committed to waiving upfront costs for their consumers. Residents may avoid being tested simply because they can’t afford to pay their co-pays or deductibles, and I commend the companies that are taking the barrier of economic ability out of the equation,” said Commissioner Navarro.

In addition to ensuring COVID-19 testing is covered, whether at a testing facility or in emergency care, the bulletin also explains options surrounding telehealth and telemedicine and clarifies that healthcare providers can utilize webcam and facetime with their clients.

Should active Delaware cases occur, medical facilities may experience a high level of activity. The bulletin specifies that care related to COVID-19 outside of the testing process should be considered in-network by health insurers if their in-network providers are unable to provide care in a timely fashion, in a safe and convenient location, or if they do not have trained, experienced providers of related care in-network. The department made clear that immunizations for COVID-19, if made available, should be covered by insurers, as would related prescription drugs. The bulletin also reminds insurers that Delaware law prohibits surprise billing.

Delaware’s Division of Public Health (DPH) Smyrna Health Lab can test for COVID-19. Testing conducted by the Division of Public Health carries no costs to consumers. DPH has opened a COVID-19 hotline for residents at 1-866-408-1899, and will also respond to questions sent to DPHCall@delaware.gov. Visit de.gov/coronavirus for more information.

Commissioner’s bulletin to insurers

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DPH Opens Coronavirus Call Center

DOVER, DE (March 4, 2020) As part of the state’s response to the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak that has impacted many countries, including the U.S., the Division of Public Health (DPH) is announcing the opening of a call center at its State Health Operations Center (SHOC) in Smyrna. The call center is open to take questions from the public, schools, medical providers, state agencies and community organizations. Hours of operation will be 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Hours may be adjusted to accommodate for peak volume. Any changes will be communicated through press release and social media communications.

The call center number is 1-866-408-1899. There is also an email address where individuals can submit questions: DPHCall@delaware.gov.  A recorded message will provide instructions for persons calling after 4:30 p.m. or on weekends who may have symptoms of concern.  Additionally, if you are a returning traveler from a country with a level 2 Travel Alert or higher (China, Japan, Italy, South Korea or Iran), and have a medical emergency, you should contact 9-1-1.

“We are receiving a tremendous number of calls from concerned individuals, and from organizations seeking guidance on what they should be doing to mitigate community spread of coronavirus disease, should it occur in Delaware,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “Opening this call center will enable us to answer people’s very valid concerns and enable key epidemiology staff to better focus on the job of monitoring returning travelers, and maintaining our high level of surveillance.”

DPH is also ramping up its activities by centralizing staff at the ​State Health Operations Center to facilitate more frequent and easier communication among DPH’s many sections that are involved in this response.  The announcement comes just days after DPH and the Department of Health and Social Services held a press conference to provide additional information on its preparedness activities. In addition, after consultation with the Governor’s Office and State Partners, Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA) Director AJ Schall and Governor John Carney have activated the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) and enacted the Delaware Emergency Operations Plan in order to support the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services. 

SEOC Activation Level: Enhanced Watch

  • DEMA will be deploying a liaison to the State Health Operations Center
  • DEMA will be assisting with public information and Joint Information Center functions

Monday, DPH announced the Division of Public Health Lab in Smyrna now has the capability to test for coronavirus disease known as COVID-19. The tests for the two patients in Kent County, the first run at the lab, came back negative. To date, there have been eight Patients Under Investigation (PUIs) whose results have been negative.  There is one additional PUI whose test results are currently pending. 

DPH also issued updated guidance for monitoring returning travelers as new countries have been added to the list of countries with coronavirus disease-related travel alerts.  Any travelers returning from a country with a Level 2 or higher Travel Alert ​- China, South Korea, Japan, Italy and Japan – in the last 14 days and who:

  • Have fever, cough and/or shortness of breath, should contact DPH at 1-866-408-1899 to discuss next steps. Those who need to call 9-1-1 for a medical emergency should advise dispatchers of your recent travel and symptoms;
  • Do not have fever, cough and/or shortness of breath (asymptomatic travelers), should contact DPH at 1-866-408-1899 for instructions on self-monitoring.

Asymptomatic returning travelers are asked to stay home (no work, school, attending public gatherings) during this 14-day period. If a returning traveler develops symptoms during this time, and there is no medical emergency, they should contact DPH instead of calling 9-1-1 or visit a walk-in or urgent-care facility. 

DPH is focusing its outreach efforts in the coming week to the business community, who are encouraged to review flexible leave policies and consider options for employees such as telecommunting both for returning travelers from Level 2 or higher countries, and in the event of community spread of coronavirus disease.   

DPH continues to recommend simple, everyday measures that people can take to prevent the spread of all infections. CDC’s Dr. Nancy Messenier said in a briefing Tuesday, that the other side of stopping the spread of coronavirus disease is not catching it.  These preventive measures are: 

  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hand. If you use a tissue, dispose of it right away.
  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, including the backs of your hands and under your nails.
  • Clean surfaces at home, work or school that you use often.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • If you are healthy, the CDC does not recommend buying or using face masks. If you are infected, however, a mask can help prevent the spread of a virus.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. Reported illnesses have ranged from people with little to no symptoms (similar to the common cold) to people being severely ill and dying. 

For more information and updates related to COVID-19, visit the DPH website at de.gov/coronavirus, where materials can be found in English, Simplified Chinese/Mandarin, Spanish, and Haitian-Creole.

The most accurate and timely information regarding this outbreak is available through the Division of Public Health, as well as the CDC’s website and social media channels.

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A person who is deaf, hard-of-hearing, deaf-blind or speech-disabled can call the DPH phone number above by using TTY services. Dial 7-1-1 or 800-232-5460 to type your conversation to a relay operator, who reads your conversation to a hearing person at DPH.  The relay operator types the hearing person’s spoken words back to the TTY user. To learn more about TTY availability in Delaware, visit http://delawarerelay.com.

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware’s citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations. DPH, a division of DHSS, urges Delawareans to make healthier choices with the 5-2-1 Almost None campaign: eat 5 or more fruits and vegetables each day, have no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time each day (includes TV, computer, gaming), get 1 or more hours of physical activity each day, and drink almost no sugary beverages.


Delaware Details Preparations for Potential Spread of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

Update: Watch Live at 1pm on March 2nd as state officials update the public on preparations Delaware is taking for Coronavirus, and the steps the public can take to prevent the spread.

 

DOVER  – The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) is actively taking steps to prepare for community spread of the coronavirus disease known as COVID-19, as well as providing information to Delawareans about the actions they can take now to make preparations. To date, no one in Delaware has tested positive for COVID-19.

“While the CDC’s comments this week indicate heightened concern, it is important to note that we have been making preparations all along to not only contain the spread of the disease, should it occur in Delaware, but also to mitigate the impact of the virus if community spread were to occur,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “As we continue to prepare for the likelihood of community spread in the U.S., we have begun stepping up our planning and preparedness efforts around mitigation strategies recommended by the CDC. In the coming days and weeks we will be having additional conversations with health care providers, schools, businesses and other state partners and stakeholders about what guidance to consider in the event of an outbreak locally.”

As of February 25, there are more than 80,000 cases of coronavirus disease worldwide, including more than 2,700 deaths. There are 57 cases and no deaths to date in the United States. The CDC expects cases to continue to be confirmed in the upcoming days and weeks, but wants everyone to take action to help prevent the spread of the virus. There is currently no community spread of the disease in the U.S., including Delaware. CDC officials also said due to the rapidly changing nature of the spread of COVID-19 around the world, it is important for families to be prepared.

CDC is recommending communities prepare for what they would do if community spread occurs by:

  • Recommending schools review their infection prevention and control plans in the event there is a local outbreak in the community.
  • Recommending employers in the public and private sectors review their plans to ensure they are able to operate with adaptations like telework and flexible sick leave policies, as well as how to respond if an employee gets sick.
  • Providing guidance to the public about the steps they can take that would help slow the spread of illness, including staying home when sick.

“The Division of Public Health is well-prepared to lead the response regarding coronavirus disease, and this is a time to enhance our preparedness efforts,” said Governor John Carney. “DPH has infectious disease outbreak plans in place that our public health experts regularly review and practice. Delaware’s plans are being used now to guide the state’s current public health activities, and those plans are flexible, allowing us to adapt to changing situations.”

To date, Delaware:

  • Has activated the Division of Public Health’s State Health Operations Center to allow for enhanced response coordination;
  • Maintains communication and outreach with federal, state and local partners;
  • Coordinates testing for symptomatic persons with an associated travel history to China;
  • Is monitoring asymptomatic (not sick) individuals returning from Mainland China to ensure they do not develop symptoms;
  • Provides symptom monitoring guidance for residents returning to Delaware from China;
  • Participates in frequent calls with health care systems, EMS and first responder agencies and other state agency partners;
  • Provides information to health care professionals, businesses and educational settings; and
  • Has reviewed and adapted current pandemic flu plans for COVID-19.

This health event is dynamic and evolving rapidly. DPH relies on accurate and up-to-date information from various federal and international partners to guide our preparedness and response efforts. DPH continues to follow the CDC’s guidance, and as new recommendations are released, we will continue to share that information as quickly as possible with our health care partners and the public.

DPH has a strong relationship with hospitals, EMS, and first responder agencies through its partnership with the state’s Department of Safety and Homeland Security (DSHS). Staff have been holding regular calls with hospitals, DEMA and DSHS and EMS agencies to provide ongoing guidance about having and stocking appropriate protective equipment, and when it is needed, and providing support as needed.

Delaware is experiencing a particularly serious flu season with over 5,000 cases and 11 deaths statewide, and DPH continues to recommend everyday measures that people can take to prevent the spread of all germs – which would also slow the spread of coronavirus disease: cover coughs and sneezes, stay home when sick, wash your hands frequently, and clean frequently touched surfaces often. While there is no vaccine yet against coronavirus, there is one to protect against influenza, and we still recommend getting it if you have not done so.
Symptoms of the COVID-19 in people who have been exposed can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. Reported illnesses have ranged from people with little to no symptoms (similar to the common cold) to people being severely ill and dying.

For more information and updates related to COVID-19, visit the DPH website at https://dhss.delaware.gov/dph, where materials can be found in English, Simplified Chinese/Mandarin, Spanish, and Haitian-Creole. In addition to updates on the global coronavirus disease outbreak, the website also contains numbers of returning travelers that DPH is currently monitoring, which are updated twice each week on Tuesdays and Fridays.

The most accurate and timely information regarding this outbreak is available through the Division of Public Health, as well as the CDC’s website and social media channels.

Visit de.gov/coronavirus for more information. 

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The Delaware Department of Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware’s citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations. DPH, a division of DHSS, urges Delawareans to make healthier choices with the 5-2-1 Almost None campaign: eat 5 or more fruits and vegetables each day, have no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time each day (includes TV, computer, gaming), get 1 or more hours of physical activity each day, and drink almost no sugary beverages.