Health plans offering phone, mobile help to those impacted by Hurricane Irma

By Jeff Lagasse
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With Hurricane Irma bearing down on Florida and the surrounding islands, those caught in the path of the destructive category 5 storm may feel like they need to reach out and talk to someone, particularly if they have a health issue that needs immediate attention. Luckily, a number of health plans realize this and are offering help lines and other support as Irma cuts a swath through the American south.
 
Cigna, for one, has expanded access to its 24/7 telephone helpline to provide personal assistance and support for all Florida residents. The phone lines are being staffed by clinicians who are qualified and available to speak to people about coping with loss, anxiety, stress or any other issues that may result from the hurricane.
 
And for all Florida customers, Cigna and Cigna-HealthSpring have lifted their restrictions on prescription refills -- no more “too soon to refill” in the Sunshine State -- and they’re encouraging people to use the retail pharmacy that’s most convenient to them, even if their benefit plan requires the use of Cigna’s mail order pharmacy. Cigna is also contacting affected customers who use Cigna's Specialty Pharmacy services to help them make alternate arrangements.
 
Cigna and Cigna-HealthSpring have also waived prior authorization requirements for acute medical care and behavioral health services for Florida customers, and will authorize non-emergency out-of-network services at an in-network level when in-network services are not available because of disruption caused by the hurricane.
 
For group disability insurance customers, Cigna will extend, as necessary, any claim filing deadlines for providers, the insured, certificate holders or enrollees. The company will also forgive Florida customers’ late payment of premiums in September.
 
Those who don’t have health benefits or employee assistance program benefits with Cigna can call 866-912-1687 toll-free through October 15, while those with benefits through Cigna can call the number on their ID card, or 800-244-6224.
 
UnitedHealthcare and Optum are jumping into the fray as well, offering participants in their health plans assistance in making alternative arrangement to access care, as well as help with early prescription refills; people can fill their existing prescriptions early, one time for a 90-day refill, if necessary.
 
They’ve set up a free emotional support hotline, 866-342-6892, which will be open 24/7 for as long as is deemed necessary. The hotline is staffed with specially trained Optum mental health specialists who can address stress and anxiety, or refer patients to community resources to help with specific concerns -- even financial and legal matters, if need be.
 
Anyone who has misplaced their medical ID cards, meanwhile, can call a separate number, 866-633-2446, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday in their local time zone. People enrolled in Medicaid, employer-sponsored and individual health plans (except Medicare) who have a smartphone can download the free Health4Me app, which provides instant access to their ID card, network care providers and their personal health benefits. The app is available as a free download at the Apple iTunes App Store and the Android Market on Google Play.
 
Humana has its sights set on Puerto Rico, which has been slammed hard by Hurricane Irma and widespread power outages and significant damage overall.
 
Humana has opened its toll-free crisis intervention hotline and counseling services beyond employees and members to include anyone who may need assistance in the Puerto Rico communities impacted by the storm.
 
Counselors and work/life specialists are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-866-440-6556 to provide free, confidential assistance to anyone needing help and support in coping with the disaster and its aftermath. Assistance is available in both English and Spanish.
 
“We know many of our employees, our health plan members, our provider partners, our brokers and employer clients, and the people in the communities we serve, have been severely impacted by Irma and are in need of our resources and support,” said Earl Harper, regional president of Medicare for Humana in Puerto Rico, in a statement. “We want our health plan members to know we are very concerned about both their physical and mental well-being and that we will work tirelessly to provide uninterrupted coverage and services at this critical time."