Skipping Doctor’s Visits Can Be Dangerous for People with Chronic Conditions
Shortly after Dr. Deborah Stewart finished a webinar about high blood pressure, a note from a viewer popped in. The man said his blood pressure was 154 over 89, and he was already on the highest dosage allowed for his medication. But he wasn’t going to see his doctor because he was concerned about being exposed to COVID-19.
That’s a dangerous approach, said Stewart, senior regional medical director for Florida Blue. Especially for people with chronic conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma and heart disease.
In March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended delaying routine visits or elective procedures to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. But high blood pressure and other chronic conditions are a different issue.
Stewart told the man to ask his doctor’s office if his concerns could be handled by phone or video. Many Florida Blue plans include coverage for virtual visits. Even if they don’t, most members have $0 cost share for virtual visits with Teladoc as long as COVID-19 remains a health concern. Teladoc’s 24/7 services are available in English and Spanish. (If you get insurance through your employer, ask your company’s benefits administrator if your plan includes virtual visits.)
In addition, many Florida Blue network providers are offering virtual visits for the regular office visit cost share. For Florida Blue Medicare Advantage plan members, that cost is waived through December. And Sanitas Medical Center patients have virtual care at $0 cost share through the mySanitas Chat app.
Sometimes, though, doctors need to see patients to evaluate new symptoms or changes in chronic conditions. Stewart said most doctors’ offices are screening patients who need to come in for COVID-19 symptoms or to see if they’ve been around someone who has them. “Oftentimes, they ask about a fever, cough or any travel to high-risk areas,” she said.
Those precautions help protect patients, especially those with chronic conditions or weakened immune systems, who can be at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
Stewart said skipping appointments is especially dangerous for cancer patients getting treatment. For someone with a recent diagnosis of advanced cancer, the cost of delaying treatment for a month or two could be devastating, she said. The same is true for many patients who are getting kidney dialysis and other life-saving treatments.
But not every medical need is at that level. Be sure to ask your doctor if an in-person visit is necessary for your condition and what precautions they are taking to protect patients. If you don’t have a doctor, call the number on the back of your member ID card and we’ll help you find one.
If you need help coordinating your care or want support for chronic conditions, reach out to our care management team. The service is part of your plan’s benefits. Call 888-476-2227 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Filed under: Health Education