Governor’s Office COVID- 19 Daily Q & A
March 17, 2020
Q: What should I do If I’m feeling sick?
A: Call your primary care doctor first. Do not go to the emergency room or hospital unless given instructions from your doctor.
Q: Any guidance for legislators who may have come into contact with a potential COVID-19 patient?
A: Stay at home and away from other people. If you are sick and have respiratory symptoms, such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath, stay home unless you need medical attention. Remain in your home until you feel better and have no symptoms. Keep in mind there is no treatment for COVID-19 and people who are mildly ill can isolate at home.
Q: When should I get tested for COVID-19?
A: Your doctor will only suggest testing if you have fever/signs of lower respiratory illness AND meet any of the following:
- You have a history of travel from an affected geographic area within the last 14 days (China, South Korea, Iran, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City, United Kingdom, Ireland, Japan). The affected countries can be found here.
- You are a resident of a congregate living or healthcare facility with infections not as a result of the flu; or
- You are of higher immunocompromised state and/or are older than 65 years old.
Q: Will the Governor be closing dental offices with the exception of emergency services? Should all non-essential and elective dental services be suspended immediately?
A: There is direction coming from the Surgeon General and the Illinois Dental Society to cancel all elective surgeries and services.
Q: Where can I find more information about COVID-19?
A: View up to date information on how Illinois is handling COVID-19 from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Testing and Supplies
Q: How does a hospital receive testing kits?
A: Hospitals uses test swabs then send it to one of three testing places in the state—Chicago, Springfield or Carbondale. DPH is working on a timeline on how to provide hospitals with additional swab tests.
Q: How will Dial-A-ride remain stocked for supplies?
A: All licensed EMS transport services are resupplied directly from their hospitals, who are in turn resupplied from their Local Health Departments. If the transport is a private for-profit company, they have traditionally been responsible for their own supply of personal protection equipment (PPE). These services provide transportation for the elderly to doctor appointments.
Q: Should firefighters and policemen be taking additional precautions?
The Department of Public Health (DPH) recommends the minimum PPE:
- A single pair of disposable examination gloves,
- Disposable isolation gown or single-use/disposable coveralls*,
- Any NIOSH-approved particulate respirator (i.e., N-95 or higher-level respirator); Facemasks are an acceptable alternative until the supply chain is restored, and
- Eye protection (i.e., goggles or disposable face shield that fully covers the front and sides of the face)
*If unable to wear a disposable gown or coveralls because it limits access to duty belt and gear, ensure duty belt and gear are disinfected after contact with individual.
Q: How can we prevent the shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) and ventilators? A: Local health departments around the state of IL are responsible for supplying hospitals and healthcare centers with PPE. The requests go to them and they are in turn supplied by IDPH. In addition, CDC has come out with new guidelines for EMS until the supply chain has been restored. IDPH is actively working with thousands of vendors to identify any supplies of PPE available for purchase.
PPE recommendations for the care of patients with known or suspected COVID-19:
- Facemasks are an acceptable alternative until the supply chain is restored. Respirators should be prioritized for procedures that are likely to generate respiratory aerosols, which would pose the highest exposure risk to HCP.
- Eye protection, gown, and gloves continue to be recommended.
- If there are shortages of gowns, they should be prioritized for aerosol-generating procedures, care activities where splashes and sprays are anticipated, and high-contact patient care activities that provide opportunities for transfer of pathogens to the hands and clothing of HCP.
- When the supply chain is restored, fit-tested EMS clinicians should return to use of respirators for patients with known or suspected COVID-19.
Updated guidance about recommended EPA-registered disinfectants to include reference to a list now posted on the EPA website.
CDC: Ensure only trained personnel wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) have contact with individuals who have or may have COVID-19. Law enforcement who must make contact with individuals confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19 should follow CDC’s Interim Guidance for EMS. Different styles of PPE may be necessary to perform operational duties. These alternative styles (i.e. coveralls) must provide protection that is at least as great as that provided by the minimum amount of PPE recommended.
Q: Where is Illinois with access to testing kits? Are there going to be additional testing sites and will they be located in hard hit areas? A: DPH is working on how to provide hospitals with additional swab tests and how to provide additional testing sites to hard hit areas.
Q: How is the governor's office handling testing kits for study abroad students?
A: Testing for students returning from studying abroad should be handled the same way as other patients. Students returning from areas affected by COVID-19 should self-isolate for 14 days. If they begin to show symptoms, they should call their healthcare provider and inquire about their candidacy for testing. In an emergency situation, patients should call ahead to emergency rooms so that they can prepare for the patient’s arrival.
Q: How is the state screening new mental health patients being admitted to the psych ward?
A: DHS is implementing a policy at their mental health hospitals to place new patients in separate areas for 5 days upon intake to be especially careful. However, at Reed, Madden and Elgin they do not have the empty beds/physical space to do this right now, so they are going to close new admissions for a couple of weeks to allow natural discharge rates to create space to have the 5 day isolation for new intakes at those facilities. During that time, DHS will pay for placement at private community facilities. DHS has worked closely with the Illinois Hospital Association (IHA)on this and they don’t have concerns about the quality of care at the community facilities.
Q: What is being done in regard to telehealth?
A: HFS is currently exploring ways to expand access so that individuals can continue to receive the services that they need while minimizing the amount of travel during this extraordinary period of time.
Q: How will seniors receive their medications?
A: Care Coordination Units provide a direct link to our seniors and tailor person-centered plans of care for all participants. These plans ensure the medication needs of our seniors are being met. While Adult
Day Centers have temporarily suspended activities, the IDoA provided extensive direction to ensure the needs of these seniors are communicated and if necessary, provide automated medication dispensers. IDoA is in regular contact with all providers in the Aging Network to ensure collaboration and communication, particularly with respect to medications and those seniors living alone.
The Care Coordination Units maintain back-up plans and emergency contact information for all seniors. These plans ensure caregivers and family members are notified of medication needs.
IDoA is providing our Care Coordination Units with capacity grants to provide emergency related supplies to seniors including medical supplies.
In addition, private business organizations such as CVS and Walgreens are offering free delivery of medications to vulnerable seniors throughout the State.
Q: What guidance is provided to Community Care Program In-home providers?
A: A: The IDoA has also provided extensive guidance and flexibility to all in-home providers to avoid interruption of services and ensure the capacity to serve our seniors. The IDoA is holding and will continue to hold conference calls with all in-home providers, Care Coordination Units, Adult Day Service providers, and Area Agencies on Aging. Regular guidance, updated procedures, FAQ’s and IDoA contact information are being distributed throughout the network.
IDoA has instructed in-home providers to conduct a daily screening over the phone before going in the home to ensure the older adult is symptom free in order to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. In addition, based on guidance from the Governor’s Office in concert with recommendations from IDPH and the CDC our providers have been given detailed instructions on the steps to take if a participant or provider tests positive for COVID-19. This includes among other more specific instructions contacting the local health department and IDoA to ensure mitigation strategies are implemented immediately.
Q: Will Medicaid cover costs related to COVID-19?
A: HFS is currently reviewing all of the opportunities that federal CMS has made available to expand coverage under Medicaid and will submit a waiver as soon as possible. If approved, the state will be able to expand Medicaid services through the addition of new medical providers, increased access across the state and ramped up services to many of the state’s most vulnerable populations. Current Medicaid beneficiaries will have all costs related to COVID-19 covered.
Q: Will my private insurance cover costs related COVID-19?
A: The Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) are currently covering the cost of the lab test for the presence of COVID 19. Yet, hospitals might still charge their own fees for collecting the specimens, which then could be billed to the patient or to the patient’s health insurance issuer.
The state’s largest health insurance companies - Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, UnitedHealthcare, Aetna, Cigna and Humana – announced they will fully cover the costs of tests for coronavirus COVID19 for patients who meet federal guidelines for testing.
You can also check the America's Health Insurance Plans’ (AHIP) website for a listing of the commitments various insurance providers have made related to insurance coverage: https://www.ahip.org/health-insurance-providers-respond-to-coronavirus-covid-19/
Call your insurance provider to discuss available coverage.
The Department of Insurance sent Company Bulletin 2020-2 to all issuers of health insurance coverage encouraging them to consider cutting costs for testing. https://insurance.illinois.gov/cb/2020/CB2020-02.pdf
Important information on High Deductible Health Plans and Expenses Related to COVID-19 can be found in IRS Notice 2020-15 - https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-20-15.pdf Due to the unprecedented public health emergency posed by COVID-19, and the need to eliminate potential administrative and financial barriers to testing for and treatment of COVID-19, a health plan that otherwise satisfies the requirements to be an HDHP under section 223(c)(2)(A) will not fail to be an HDHP merely because the health plan provides medical care services and items purchased related to testing for and treatment of COVID-19 prior to the satisfaction of the applicable minimum deductible. Typically, an HDHP with an HSA would create possible negative tax implications if benefits were received prior to the enrollee not meeting their deductible. This IRS guidance allowing these plans to take advantage of no-cost sharing benefits offered removes financial disincentives to consumers with HDHPs that would impede testing and treatment for COVID-19.
*This information does not apply to excepted benefit policies or short-term, limited-duration health insurance coverage.
Q: Are insurance companies expanding telehealth opportunities?
A: In some instances, plans are accommodating providers who are outside of their designated telehealth network and providers with HIPAA compliant telehealth capabilities will be allowed to provide telehealth services to their patients as they normally would in an office setting. Call your insurance provider to discuss available coverage.
*Example: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois Responds to COVID-19 With Expanded Telehealth Program: https://www.bcbsil.com/newsroom/news-releases/2020/covid-19-expanded-telehealth
It is important to note that plans that offer telehealth benefits have telehealth providers accessible to all members in those plans. Patients may not get to stay with the provider that they meet in the office when switching to telehealth as their in-person provider may not have elected to participate in the telehealth network. That does not mean that consumers do not have access to care through telehealth services if their plan has benefits for telehealth.
HFS is also exploring ways to expand the availability of telehealth for Medicaid beneficiaries.
Q: Who pays for COVID 19 diagnostic testing if needed?
A: The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) are currently covering the cost of the lab test for the presence of COVID 19. Yet, hospitals might still charge their own fees for collecting the specimens, which then could be billed to the patient or to the patient’s health insurance issuer. Call your insurance provider to discuss available coverage.
Q: Will I be subject to higher cost-sharing if I unintentionally receive care from out-of-network specialists in an in-network hospital?
A: No. The Illinois Insurance Code prohibits health insurance issuers from charging higher out-of-pocket expenses to an enrollee who sees an out-of-network provider at an in-network facility if there are no in-network providers available. However, if you willfully choose a non-network provider when an in-network provider is readily available, you might be subject to higher out-of-pocket expenses.
Q: What if I have health concerns that require emergency medical services?
A: Insurance carriers must cover emergency services for an emergency medical condition at in-network levels regardless of which provider performs the services. Emergency services include transportation services, such as ambulance services, as well as inpatient and outpatient hospital services that are needed to evaluate or stabilize the patient. Many individuals who have contracted COVID 19 have not required emergency services. Still, exceptional circumstances may arise.
Q: Should I fill or refill my current prescription drugs in anticipation of an emergency?
A: The CDC and American Red Cross recommend that households maintain at least a 30-day supply of any prescription drugs used by household members at all times to prepare for unexpected events. The Department has encouraged health insurance carriers to do all that they can to allow people to get more than a 30-day supply of a prescription drug at one time, subject to the limits of the prescription written by the treating healthcare provider. The Department does not recommend stockpiling prescriptions that are highly susceptible to abuse, such as opioids that may be restricted to 7-day prescriptions. Springfield Office 320 W. Washington Street Springfield, Illinois 62767 (217) 782-4515 Chicago Office 122 S. Michigan Ave., 19th Floor Chicago, Illinois 60603 (312) 814-2420.
Q: Can my insurance carrier cancel or refuse to renew my insurance policy if I am diagnosed with COVID 19 or a preexisting respiratory illness?
A: No. The Illinois Insurance Code prohibits individual or group accident and health insurance carriers from imposing any pre-existing condition exclusions, including in connection with COVID 19. Federal law and state regulations provide protections against preexisting condition exclusions in health insurance coverage, as well. However, preexisting condition consumer protections do not apply to short-term, limited-duration health insurance coverage or excepted benefit policies.
Q: Does my travel insurance cover risks related to COVID 19 if I get sick while travelling?
A: It depends. Unless a travel insurance policy contains an exception applicable to COVID 19, a policy of travel insurance that covers the risks of sickness, accident, or death incident to travel presumptively would cover such risks relating to COVID 19 if experienced while travelling. The extent of coverage for health care services, including emergency transportation within a foreign country, as well as the costs of returning to the United States for further treatment, may depend on the terms of the policy so be sure to check with your insurance carrier.
Q: Does my travel insurance cover cancelation or interruption risks related to COVID 19?
A: If you purchased a Trip Cancelation or Trip Interruption policy after January 21 or 22, 2020, it is unlikely that you will be covered if your trip is canceled due a COVID 19 event—such as an coronavirus outbreak at your destination, or a quarantine that prevents you from traveling. Again, you should check with your insurance carrier for coverage and policy details.
Q: Is there a number to call for health insurance and HMO inquiries? Yes. If you have questions
A: regarding health insurance and HMO inquiries, please call the Illinois Department of Insurance at (877) 527-9431.
- Is there a number to call for Medicare Beneficiaries and Caregiver Inquiries?
A: Yes. If you have questions regarding Medicare beneficiaries and caregiver inquiries, please call CMS at (800) 548-9034.
Q: What is the Department of Insurance doing for self-insured plans?
A: The United States Department of labor oversees self-insured plans. The Department would not be able to alter self-insured plans at the state level, but Illinois has been in conversations with Senator Durbin and the National AFL-CIO regarding our concerns surrounding self-insured plans and COVID-19. The federal proposal is more expansive than what the Department has provided in their recent bulletin, which covers cost sharing for testing of COVID-19. The Department will continue these conversations.
Q: Can Illinois create a 60-day special enrollment period for consumers wishing to buy health insurance on the Exchange?
A: Illinois’ exchange is currently a Federal Partnership State. Under this exchange classification, Illinois is unable to create a special enrollment period. Full state-based exchanges (SBM) have the infrastructure and technological platform to establish special enrollment periods. However, Federal Partnership States and states that have state-based exchanges utilizing the federal platform (SBM-FP) do not have the ability to alter, extend, or create additional open enrollment periods. The federal government has the option to open a special enrollment period.
Q: Will continuing education requirement deadlines be extended?
A: Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) is prioritizing healthcare licensees to ensure more accessibility to providers. The Department will communicate to schools under its regulation to take the appropriate steps to provide student records required for licensure for new applicants (e.g. transcripts). Regarding testing, the Department cannot control the offering of examinations required for licensure. Many exam providers are canceling tests to promote social distancing and prevent large gatherings or people in a confined space for a prolonged period. As a result, this will lead to prospective graduates waiting until exams are offered again.
Q: Will continuing education for certain programs be allowed to be delivered online?
A: IDFPR is preparing variances to address continuing education delivery and deadlines, license renewal deadlines, and requirements for reinstatement. These variances will alleviate obstacles in the license process.
Q: Will the renewal deadline for certain professions be extended? Nurses, Physicians and Chiropractors are currently in renewal?
A: IDFPR has reviewed other state’s actions related to expansions of scope and out of state licensees. We will provide additional guidance to the Governor’s office on how to address these items, which will provide added professionals to the healthcare industry.
Food and Nutrition
Q: How will children who traditionally receive free meals at school eat during this time? What is being done about parents who can't take kids to the school?
A: Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is providing breakfast and lunch for pick up at their schools. Community volunteers are working on delivery to children with working parents. The process varies by district. Contact your local school district.
Q: How do we address food hoarding? A: Larger stores such as Walmart and Target have set restrictions on the amount of food items that can be purchases by one individual. There was also a public announcement during the Governor's daily press conference to stop hoarding.
Q: Can restaurants cater at an individual's home under the new Executive Order if it’s under the 50 people threshold?
A: Yes, restaurants can cater to crowds under 50 in an individual’s home.
Q: Are all childcare centers and homes mandated to close?
A: At this time, the Governor has not mandated that childcare centers and homes licensed by the Department of Children and Family Services (or legally license-exempt centers outside of schools) close. However, centers are allowed to close if they so choose.
Many private childcare centers, university day care centers and medical center-based daycares will continue to operate, as will many childcare homes. For guidance and precautions, please visit the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development Website.
Q: Will Head Start Programs be penalized for closing? How will attendance impact funding for childcare centers that remain open?
A: Head Start and Early Head Start programs will not be penalized for closing during the public health emergency according to federal guidance issued in early March. ISBE and the Chicago Department of Family Support Services have also indicated that programs will not lose funding from Preschool for All or Prevention Initiative. And IDHS is developing a simplified waiver process for the 80% attendance requirement in the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) for being paid for all eligible days for all enrolled children. Programs receiving these funding streams are expected to continue to pay all staff even if they are closed.
Q: Why has IDNR closed all access to State run parks lakes and facilities.
A: Social distancing and staying confined to one’s home are absolutely necessary to slowing the progression of COVID-19. IDNR sees the closures of our state parks, fish and wildlife areas, recreational areas and historic sites as a necessary step in helping stem the spread of disease, protecting both the patrons who enjoy our state sites as well as our dedicated employees. The IDNR is working closely with the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Governor’s Office to monitor the situation and assess when we can safely reopen our facilities.
- Where are we with giving an extension on Hospital Assessment?
A: HFS continues to work with stakeholders and members of the General Assembly on negotiations HFS is also discussions with federal CMS on alternative options in the event an extension is needed.