AlaskaCare Retiree Health News | March 2020 Special Edition | COVID-19 Information for AlaskaCare Retirees

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Volume 22| March 2020

What is Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

COVID-19 is a new viral respiratory disease. While we are still learning how it spreads, the severity of illness it causes, and to what extent it may spread in the United States. It is important that we all take action to protect ourselves and others, prevent the further spread of the disease throughout our communities, and prepare.

How does COVID-19 spread?

  • The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person, between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through contact with respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
  • By touching a contaminated surface or an object that has the virus on it and then touching the mouth, nose or eyes.

Watch for symptoms

Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed COVID-19 cases. The following symptoms are likely to appear 2-14 days after exposure:

  • fever
  • cough
  • shortness of breath

What Should I Do If I Feel Sick?

If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever or cough or have difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider immediately. Learn what to do if you are sick.

Call ahead before you visit your doctor or go to the hospital

  • If you believe you may have been exposed to COVID-19 and have a medical appointment or plan to visit a hospital, call the healthcare provider before you go and tell them that you may have COVID-19. This will help the healthcare provider’s office take steps to keep other people from getting infected or exposed.

Keep the emergency room for emergencies

  • Hospitals are working hard to provide care for an increasing number of people. If you need non-emergent medical advice or attention, consider other options before you visit the emergency room.
    • Call your doctor’s office to discuss your symptoms and recommended next steps.
    • Talk to a doctor by phone or video through Teladoc.
    • Call Aetna’s 24-Hour Nurseline at (800) 556-1555.

What You Can Do to Keep Yourself, Your Family, and
Your Community Healthy: Prevent, Protect, Prepare

Take steps to prevent the spread of disease

Clean your hands often.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Avoid close contact.

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.

Take steps to protect yourself and others

Clean and disinfect.

  • Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
  • If surfaces are dirty, clean them: Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.

Stay home if you’re sick.

Cover coughs and sneezes.

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
  • Throw used tissues in the trash.
  • Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Take steps to prepare for COVID-19

Stay informed.

Check your emergency kit.

  • Whether for a pandemic, earthquake, or some other disaster, Alaskans should have an emergency kit. Include supplies like soap, hand sanitizer, tissues, and any medications you or your family member need. Have nonprescription drugs and other health supplies on hand.

Have a plan.

  • Have supplies on hand in case there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in your community and you need stay home for a prolonged period of time.
  • Stay in touch with others by phone or email. You may need to ask for help from friends, family, or neighbors if you become sick.
  • Determine who can provide you with care if your caregiver gets sick.
  • Think about how you can stay active if you need to remain isolated.

Who is at Higher Risk?

Older adults and people who have severe underlying chronic medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness. Please consult with your healthcare provider about additional steps you may be able to take to protect yourself.

If you are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19, you should:

  • Take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others.
  • When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact, and wash your hands often.
  • Avoid crowds as much as possible.
  • Have a plan for if you get sick.
  • Avoid non-essential travel.

During a COVID-19 outbreak in your community, stay home as much as possible to further reduce your risk of being exposed.

What Your AlaskaCare Health Plan is Doing for You

In response to the national public health emergency associated with the COVID-19 disease outbreak, the Commissioner of the State of Alaska Department of Administration directed the Division of Retirement and Benefits to take the following steps:

  • Medication Preparation
    Effective Tuesday, March 3, 2020, the AlaskaCare employee and retiree plans lifted restrictions on early medication refills. Members may obtain an additional 90-day supply of valid prescriptions. This does not apply to opioid medications.

  • Teladoc
    Effective March 9, 2020, AlaskaCare retiree health plan members will have temporary access to Teladoc general medical services with a $0 copay. This service is already available to AlaskaCare employee health plan members. Teledoc doctors can evaluate your risk for COVID-19 and help with next steps when necessary. Teladoc can also fulfill other health care needs unrelated to COVID-19 and is a convenient and affordable way to receive care whenever you need it from wherever you are within the United States. Using telemedicine can help you and your family members avoid unnecessary contact.

  • Diagnostic Testing
    Effective March 9, 2020, the AlaskaCare employee and retiree health plans are waiving member cost share (e.g. deductible, co-insurance) for laboratory tests ordered to diagnose and treat COVID-19 including: respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza A & B, viral respiratory panel, and COVID-19 testing. To qualify for waived deductible and co-insurance, laboratory tests must be deemed medically necessary under the terms of the plan and they must be FDA-approved. The co-insurance and deductible are also waived for the office visit if the primary diagnosis code for the visit is COVID-19 or any of the above diagnostic tests are billed with the office visit.

  • Influenza vaccine (flu shots)
    Effective March 9, 2020 the AlaskaCare retiree plans will cover Trivalent and Quadrivalent influenza vaccines received at an in-network pharmacy. If a retiree plan member receives an influenza vaccine from a healthcare provider, the standard deductible and coinsurance will apply for the vaccine and the office visit.

  • Aetna Crisis Response Line
    Aetna is providing support for AlaskaCare employee and retiree health plan members through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) during the COVID-19 public health event. EAP staff is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. To speak with a counselor contact AlaskaCare EAP at (855) 417-2493.

The preceding temporary administrative changes are prospective in nature and shall remain in effect until the national public health emergency is terminated by the Secretary of Health and Human Services or upon the expiration of the 90-day period beginning on the date on which the determination is made by the Secretary, whichever occurs first. The temporary administrative changes listed above are in response to a federally recognized national health emergency and do not provide a vested right to coverage for any individual. The Division of Retirement and Benefits retains the sole discretion to rescind or modify these temporary administrative changes depending on the circumstances.

Additional information is available at

The Division will continue to monitor events and will make additional changes as necessary.

The Division is implementing these measures very quickly. We appreciate our members' patience and ask that they contact the Division directly if they encounter any problems.

Where Can I Get More Information on COVID-19?

The COVID-19 outbreak is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation. More information is available from these resources:

Special Event: COVID-19 Telephonic Townhall
Friday, March 13, 2020

On Friday, March 13, 2020, the Division or Retirement and Benefits will host a special town hall event to discuss the COVID-19 outbreak and how the AlaskaCare health plan is taking steps to help members prepare. If you are already registered for the Retiree Town Hall Event series, you will automatically receive a call for this special event. If you haven't attended before, and would like to register, registration will be available here.

Town Hall Events are group calls hosted by the Alaska Department of Administration, Division of Retirement and Benefits for all interested AlaskaCare retirees and families to ask questions about the AlaskaCare health plans.


  • Special COVID-19: Event Friday, March 13, 2020
  • Regular Event: Thursday March 19, 2020

What is the State of Alaska Doing to Prepare?

The State of Alaska has been working to prepare for the spread of COVID-19 since January 2020. Though Alaska does not have any confirmed cases of COVID-19, on March 11, 2020, Governor Mike Dunleavy issued a public health disaster emergency declaration for COVID-19 to take a proactive approach to accessing all necessary resources. The Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs has established a unified command and has activated plans to coordinate activities statewide.

In addition to setting up the unified command, the declaration permits the Department of Health and Social Services commissioner to exercise state statutes related to isolation and quarantine measures, and makes it easier for the state to purchase supplies, hire temporary staff, and access disaster relief funds for public assistance.

For the latest information on Alaska’s response to COVID-19, please visit

Health Benefit Contact Information

Division of Retirement and Benefits
DRB Call Center: (907) 465-4460 |Toll Free: (800) 821-2251

Medical Benefits: Aetna
Member Services: (855) 784-8646

Long Term Care Benefits: CHCS Services, Inc.
Member Services: (888) 287-7116

Dental Benefits: Moda/Delta Dental
Member Services: (855) 718-1768

Pharmacy Benefits: OptumRx
Member Services: (855) 409-6999

Specialty Pharmacy: BriovaRx
Enrollment Services: (855) 427-4682