In Part Two of this interview, Michelle Zettergren, President of MagnaCare, discusses the concerns of Labor leaders during the COVID-19 pandemic and healthcare coverage for furloughed workers. Read more
MagnaCare President Michelle Zettergren dives into COVID-19 claims data with Crain’s Business. Read the article that appeared in Crain’s (subscription required).
Arranged by its healthcare partner MagnaCare, DC 9 offered free, on-site COVID-19 antibody testing for its members. Read more
Collaboration supports return-to-work planning for key workforce groups
NEW YORK, May 18, 2020 – MagnaCare, today announced a collaboration with BioReference Laboratories, Inc., an OPKO Health company (NASDAQ: OPK), to bring COVID-19 antibody testing to their Labor clients in the New York metropolitan area. Through this collaboration with BioReference Laboratories, MagnaCare will offer on-site antibody blood testing to Labor members, delivering valuable information as the city, employers and individuals plan return-to-work strategies.
“As New York’s coronavirus outbreak has continued to unfold, our Labor partners have been eager for information and guidance on COVID-19 antibody testing — particularly since skilled trade groups will be among the first to return-to-work and begin re-energizing the local economy,” said MagnaCare President Michelle Zettergren. “Antibody testing can support decision-making about back-to-work procedures and safety measures for protecting workers and the public. We’re proud to bring this service to our clients so they have more knowledge, and hopefully some peace of mind, in this challenging environment.”
BioReference Laboratories, which recently worked with New York State and New York City to provide COVID-19 antibody testing, offers a blood test that measures SARS-CoV-2 specific antibody levels to help determine an individual’s immune response after COVID-19 infection. Although the presence of antibodies are typically associated with immunity, the scientific community is still working to understand what level of antibodies might be needed for protection from reinfection with COVID-19, and how long that protection might last.
The collaboration will begin with on-site testing for the District Council 9 of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) on May 18-20. The on-site testing is available to DC 9 members, who must go online to pre-register and schedule their test. The cost will be fully covered by the union, and results will be emailed directly to members within 72 hours.
“Our goal is to get our members back to work with comfort and confidence,” said Joseph Azzopardi, Business Manager and Secretary Treasurer of DC 9. “We’re grateful to MagnaCare for providing a convenient testing option so we can all decide how best to move forward in the days and weeks ahead.”
MagnaCare is also working with some of its other New York-based Labor partners to establish additional on-site testing locations this month.
For 30 years, MagnaCare has been building healthy communities together with Taft-Hartley Funds, TPAs, carriers, and workers’ compensation and no-fault payors in the New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut tri-state area. Its broad and wholly owned network, full health plan management services, comprehensive in-house medical management, and leading outcomes-based casualty solutions offer the ultimate flexibility and customization that help customers control healthcare costs, improve health, and achieve exceptional value. MagnaCare is a division of Brighton Health Plan Solutions, LLC.
About BioReference Laboratories, Inc.
BioReference provides comprehensive testing to physicians, clinics, hospitals, employers, government units, correctional institutions and medical groups. The company is in network with the five largest health plans in the United States, operates a network of 10 laboratory locations, and is backed by a medical staff of more than 160 MD, PhD and other professional level clinicians and scientists. With a leading position in the areas of genetics, women’s health, maternal fetal medicine, oncology and urology, BioReference and its specialty laboratories, GenPath and GeneDx, are advancing the course of modern medicine. For more information, visit www.bioreference.com.
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With the construction industry at the forefront of the statewide reopening efforts easing restrictions put in place during the coronavirus pandemic, District Council 9 (DC 9), through its healthcare partner MagnaCare, is offering free, on-site COVID-19 antibody testing to its 11,000 members at its office in Long Island City. Read more
In Part One of this interview, Michelle Zettergren, President of MagnaCare, discusses communicating with clients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more
As governments begin to lift stay-at-home orders and reopen sectors of the economy, you may be wondering how you can continue to stay safe. Practicing recommended CDC guidelines will be key to protecting your health. Please note, the information below does not substitute for medical advice.
The healthcare community’s understanding of the symptoms of COVID-19 has developed over the course of the pandemic. The CDC now advises people to look for the loss of taste or smell, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, muscle pain, and/or sore throat. Some people with COVID-19 have also reported nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. These symptoms can appear as mild or severe 2–14 days after exposure to the virus. If sick, call ahead to a healthcare provider to review your symptoms and seek care early if you are immunocompromised, older, or have underlying medical conditions. Seek care immediately if the symptoms are severe.
The virus is spread mainly from person to person. Maintaining a safe social distance from others and wearing a cloth face covering over the nose and mouth remain important safety precautions as states reopen. Washing hands frequently with soap and water and avoiding touching the face are also essential for reducing your risk of illness.
In addition, the CDC strongly recommends routinely cleaning and disinfecting surfaces that are touched often, such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, phones, desks, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks. It’s important that you understand how to safely use disinfectant products, which can cause severe harm if used improperly.
Disinfectants do not work instantly and most products will recommend pre-cleaning surfaces with soap and water to improve the disinfectant’s effectiveness. The product will typically list how many minutes it must sit on a surface before you wipe it clean and which surfaces it can be applied to; bleach disinfectants are not safe on fabrics. When using bleach-based products, take safety precautions like wearing gloves and ventilating the room. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists on its website the products that meet its criteria for disinfecting SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The EPA also issued a memo reminding the public to never apply disinfectants to yourself or others or on food, never ingest disinfectant products, and never mix products. Read the warning label carefully and follow instructions on the EPA registered disinfectant products.
The high demand for disinfectant products has made it difficult for many people to find these products on shelves or online. If necessary, check the CDC for its instructions on how to safely make disinfectant from diluted, unexpired household bleach for use on hard surfaces. Follow instructions very carefully. The CDC, however, discourages the use of homemade hand sanitizers, which can be ineffective and cause skin burns if made incorrectly. Hand-washing is best, and if you are unable to wash, then use an FDA approved alcohol-based hand sanitizer which lists 60% alcohol on its label.
Some of you may have questions about how to safely handle packages and shopping for essentials like groceries. Packaging is not thought to be the main way that COVID-19 transmits because the coronavirus survives poorly on packaging. But if you wish, according to the FDA, wipe down packaging and the surfaces it touched and allow them to air dry. And the CDC recommends washing hands or using hand sanitizer after accepting deliveries or mail.
Avoid shopping when you are sick. When you do go shopping, prepare a list in advance and wear a cloth mask (some stores may require it). If using reusable bags, clean and wash before every use. Keep at least 6 feet between you and others and wipe down the handles of the shopping cart; avoid touching your face and use touchless payment if possible. If you must touch any uncleaned surface directly, use hand sanitizer afterward. At home, wash your hands before and after handling your purchases. For groceries, follow general food safety practices as usual, such as rinsing fruits and vegetables, immediately refrigerating or freezing perishables, and cleaning kitchen counters regularly. For more information on shopping for food, check the FDA website, and for advice on running other essential errands like getting gas and deliveries, visit the CDC.
Dr. Bartley Bryt talks about reopening the state’s economy amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the importance of antibody testing. Read more
Earlier this week we shared with you some background on blood tests to detect COVID-19 antibodies. Here is some additional information about antibody testing. As always, the following does not substitute for medical advice and is for informational purposes only.
COVID-19 IgG Antibody Testing Differs From COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing In Several Important Ways
Both diagnostic and IgG antibody tests require a physician order when performed through a lab, and cost-sharing for both is waived by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Here’s where the two tests differ:
|COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing||COVID-19 IgG Antibody Testing|
|Purpose of Test
|To confirm a current, active infection
|To identify those who had COVID-19 in the past. Many people have mild or no symptoms, and may not have been diagnosed.
|Respiratory secretions from the back of the nasal cavity
|How the sample is collected
|Type of test
|Molecular test: looks for COVID-19’s viral genetic material
|Serological test: examines the blood serum for IgG antibody proteins which develop in the body a few weeks after an infection starts. IgG antibodies help fight off an infection and stay in the body for a long time after recovery.
|Who the test is intended for
|You believe you have COVID-19 currently or have been exposed to it recently
|You are unsure if you had COVID-19 in the past
|Who should not be tested
|You should review your COVID-19 symptoms and exposure with a doctor to see if testing is recommended
|Don’t take this test if you want to diagnose COVID-19, or you currently have symptoms of COVID-19, or you think your COVID-19 infection or exposure started within the past two weeks (the IgG antibodies take time to appear so they may not show up on the test if done too soon)
|When to take the test
|You are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or your doctor or a health official recommends it based on your exposure to COVID-19
|Wait at least two weeks since you were last infected or exposed to COVID-19 to take the test. Required wait period may vary by lab.
|What the results mean
|A positive diagnostic test result indicates you have a current COVID-19 infection
|A positive IgG antibody test result means you have antibodies that likely resulted from COVID-19. An antibody test given too early could come back negative even if you had the virus because of the time it takes for the IgG antibodies to appear.
The antibody test does not tell you if you have an active infection. So, regardless of the result, you will still need a diagnostic test to confirm an active infection. Please note, the testing labs may have different testing requirements than those listed above.
Ways Members Can Access Antibody Testing
There are several antibody testing options currently available. A prescription is necessary for the test so if you want to get tested for antibodies you should contact your doctor for a test script.
The most cost-effective locations for testing will be through free-standing labs rather than through hospital labs. A primary care physician (PCP) can write a prescription for you to visit a lab’s patient service center (such as a BioReference Laboratories, Labcorp, and Quest Diagnostics patient service center) for the blood draw. Some PCPs may do the blood draw at their office and send the sample to a lab for analysis; you should request that it be sent to a free-standing, MagnaCare-participating lab rather than a hospital lab which will be much higher in cost.
If you do not have a PCP, you can contact a PCP in the MagnaCare network, a telemedicine vendor you have in your plan, or a self-pay telemedicine vendor like those listed here. Keep in mind that antibody tests ordered or drawn at urgent care centers, hospital-affiliated providers or hospital-affiliated labs will cost the plan more than those ordered by a PCP and sent to a free-standing participating lab.
Otherwise, you can choose to self-pay and schedule an antibody test directly through LabCorp or Quest Diagnostics. You would be responsible for the full cost. These direct-to-consumer options are NOT covered under insurance and cost significantly more than the insurance rates. There are no FDA-authorized antibody home testing kits at the moment.
Reliability of Antibody Testing
According to the CDC, it’s unclear right now if the COVID-19 antibodies provide protection (immunity) against reinfection. Research is underway to confirm if COVID-19 antibodies offer some level of protection as expected.
Many antibody tests are appearing on the market, but they vary in their accuracy. Antibody tests available through BioReference Laboratories, Labcorp and Quest Diagnostics (MagnaCare-participating labs) are said by the labs to meet their standards for specificity and sensitivity. As with any tests, false positives and false negatives are possible.
We hope you find this information helpful as we approach the next phases of our country’s coronavirus response.
There are several strategies employers can use to lower the cost of the healthcare they offer their employees. Michelle Zettergren, President of MagnaCare, explains the ways employers can save. Read more (Free registration)
COVID-19 diagnostic testing has now been available for several weeks to test for active COVID-19 infections. You might now be hearing about COVID antibody tests, also called serology tests. Results from this blood test might help indicate who has, and how many people have had COVID-19 in the past.
What are antibodies?
In response to an infection, your immune system creates two special proteins called IgM and IgG antibodies. IgM appears first, and then IgG. Usually, the IgG antibodies can still be found in the blood and other tissues for a long time after the infection. The next time the body is exposed to that same infection, the IgG antibodies will try to fight off that infection but there are minimum antibody levels typically needed for true immunity.
The COVID-19 IgG antibodies usually develop 1-3 weeks after infection (the timeline seems to vary depending on whether the person showed symptoms of COVID-19 or not). The COVID-19 antibody test takes a sample of your blood and looks for IgG antibodies specific to COVID-19. The blood test will identify if you have IgG antibodies and should also measure the amount of antibodies. Results are usually available within 72 hours.
What do the testing results mean?
At the moment, antibody blood testing alone should not be used to confirm an active, positive COVID-19 infection; for that you will still need a COVID-19 diagnostic swab test. According to the CDC, a positive antibody blood test result shows you have antibodies that likely resulted from COVID-19. If you have a negative antibody blood test result, it could mean a number of things: you did not have a previous COVID-19 infection, or you have a current infection and the IgG antibodies have not appeared yet in your blood (which is why the NYS DOH recommends waiting at least 21 days before testing for antibodies if you were previously diagnosed with COVID-19 from the nasopharyngeal swab test).
It’s not yet clear how much immunity from reinfection the COVID-19 antibodies provide and for how long, but the COVID-19 antibodies are expected to generally behave the same way antibodies have acted with other types of coronaviruses and offer some level of protection. Over the upcoming weeks, we expect to hear more complete information about antibody effectiveness from emerging studies on COVID-19 immunity. Check with the CDC or local Departments of Health for the latest on immunity research and current recommendations around antibody testing.
How can you get antibody testing?
Just as with COVID-19 diagnostic testing, antibody testing is covered by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and there is no cost-sharing for the provider visit or the test.
Many commercial antibody tests are appearing on the market, but they could vary in their accuracy. The information on testing is still developing. We’ll continue to share more insights as we learn more.