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Press Release

Independence Blue Cross Takes Steps to Prepare for H1N1 and Seasonal Flu

Insurer to cover swine flu vaccine administration

Philadelphia, PA - September 14, 2009 - In an effort to help keep members healthy and flu-free this year, Independence Blue Cross (IBC) will offer coverage for the administration costs of the H1N1 (swine flu) vaccine when it becomes available. In addition, IBC will continue to cover seasonal flu vaccine.

"At Independence Blue Cross, we want our members and customers to be prepared with everything they need to know about H1N1 and seasonal flu to keep their families and employees healthy," says I. Steven Udvarhelyi, M.D., senior vice president and chief medical officer for Independence Blue Cross. "We are monitoring the spread of the H1N1 virus and seasonal flu, and will continue to follow the precautions and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and federal, state, and local governments."

H1N1 Flu Coverage Information

IBC will cover the administration of the H1N1 flu vaccine for all members when the vaccine is administered by an eligible provider. IBC based its decision to cover H1N1 vaccine administration upon the formal recommendations recently announced by the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. This committee recommended that first priority be given by those administering the vaccine to five key populations:

  • Pregnant women.
  • People who live with or care for children younger than six months of age.
  • Health care and emergency services personnel.
  • Children and young adults from 6 months to 24 years.
  • People age 25 through 64 who have chronic medical conditions that increase the risk of complications from influenza infection.

The CDC's Advisory Committee also provided guidance regarding high-risk groups that should be targeted in the event of a significant shortage of vaccine, as well as recommendations for the general population if the supply of vaccine exceeds the needs of the target groups.

H1N1 flu is believed to spread in the same way that seasonal flu spreads, mainly through coughing and sneezing by infected persons. It may also spread by touching infected objects and then touching the nose or mouth.

Symptoms of the H1N1 virus can mimic those of the seasonal flu and may include sudden fever and cough with muscle aches, fatigue, and lack of appetite. Many people with this infection also have a runny nose, sore throat, and watery eyes, and some have nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Despite similar symptoms, people need to protect themselves against H1N1 and seasonal flu with different vaccines. The CDC has stated that the H1N1 vaccine is not intended to replace the seasonal flu vaccine.

Seasonal Flu Coverage Information

IBC will cover the administration of seasonal flu vaccine for members whose medical benefit plan provides coverage for vaccines administered by eligible providers. As a reminder, IBC urges those who are ill to take the following steps to help prevent spreading flu viruses to others:

  • Stay home when you are sick to avoid spreading the illness to others.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue away after using it.
  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching the eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Seek care if you have flu-like symptoms.

Information is Key

As an additional preventive reminder, this fall IBC will launch its annual flu vaccine campaign delivering thousands of phone calls and postcards to urge some of its most vulnerable members to get their seasonal flu vaccine. To learn more about H1N1 and other Facts about the Flu please visit IBC's extensive web-based flu information center. Members can confirm their specific benefits by calling the number listed on their insurance card or 1-800-ASK-BLUE.

IBC bases immunization policy decisions on recommendations issued by the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and other nationally recognized organizations. The CDC's Advisory Committee is composed of 15 experts in fields associated with immunization who provide advice and guidance to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC on the most effective means to prevent diseases that can be contained through vaccine.

About Independence Blue Cross

Independence Blue Cross is a leading health insurer in southeastern Pennsylvania. Nationwide, Independence Blue Cross and its affiliates provide coverage to nearly 3.3 million people. For more than 70 years, Independence Blue Cross has offered high-quality health care coverage tailored to meet the changing needs of members, employers, and health care professionals. Independence Blue Cross's HMO and PPO health care plans have consistently received the highest ratings from the National Committee for Quality Assurance.

Independence Blue Cross supports comprehensive health care reform that would extend coverage to all Americans, reduce costs, and improve quality. We also advocate reform that builds on the current employer-based system that currently serves 170 million Americans. Learn more about our views on health care legislation now working its way through Congress.

Independence Blue Cross is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

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