Elective Surgery Cancellations During Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak

The U.S. Surgeon General has recommended that hospitals cancel non-essential surgeries and other medical procedures to minimize potential exposure to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) for doctors, hospital staff, and patients.

In New York City, the Mayor has issued a directive to all hospitals to cancel elective surgeries, and many hospitals in our region and across the country are opting to do the same. It is likely that state governments will issue a directive to cancel all elective surgeries.

While this new development may be distressing for anyone who was expecting surgery, the main consideration for us all is to stay safe and to minimize exposure to the virus.

The following is up-to-date information about the cancellation of elective procedures may help answer questions about elective surgeries during this time:

How will hospitals communicate the cancellations with patients?

The hospital will use the contact information they have on file to communicate with patients about changes to the scheduling of upcoming procedures.

Are there exceptions that hospitals will make?

Hospitals will do what is called “triage” to determine where to best allocate their limited resources and to decide whether a procedure can safely be postponed.

Are procedures being rescheduled at this time, or outright cancelled for now?

This will depend upon the provider and the hospital. For now, most providers and facilities will likely cancel and not reschedule for now, in favor of preparing for addressing clinical needs related to coronavirus.

Policies are evolving each day, so for the latest local and national information check in at the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For more local information on this and other issues pertaining to the coronavirus, consult your local public health department:


Coronavirus Testing

As we all continue to monitor the situation related to COVID-19, we would like to provide you with as much information as possible to help our clients and members.

Information is changing on a daily basis. Below you will find answers (correct as of today) to questions you and your members may have about coronavirus testing.

Where to get tested

If you have symptoms of the virus, call your doctor’s office. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor will advise whether you should come in for an office visit. If your doctor determines that testing is needed, they will administer the test and send the sample to BioReference Laboratories, LabCorp or Quest Diagnostics, our in-network labs.

Please note that the test cannot currently be performed on-location at free-standing labs.

Going to the emergency room or directly to the hospital should not be the first course of action, and may result in denied claims if it is determined that it was not medically necessary. Also, hospital-based testing may be subject to prior authorization.

The information about testing is changing from day to day. You can find out the most up-to-date information from your doctor or from several websites, including the laboratories’ sites:

How is the test administered?

Your doctor may collect multiple specimens:

  • Nose swabs
  • Throat swab
  • Lower respiratory specimen which requires rinsing your mouth with water and expectorating into a sterile, leak-proof, screw-cap sputum collection cup or sterile dry container

How long will it take to get the results?

Results should be available 3-4 days from the time of specimen pickup. However, timing may be impacted by high demand.

How are coronavirus test claims treated under the health plan?

Coronavirus testing is covered under your health plan like any other lab benefit, such as the flu test.

Coronavirus Recommendations

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has discussed the likelihood of local person-to-person transmission of the novel coronavirus, a flu-like respiratory illness with symptoms that can include fever, cough, or shortness of breath.

It is important to be prepared, but not respond to fear.

Coronavirus is most often spread person-to-person by respiratory droplets, such as through coughing or sneezing. To avoid contracting or spreading the virus, general flu prevention measures are recommended:

  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or sleeve (not your hands)
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or with a hand sanitizer such as Purell
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home if you’re feeling sick. Call your doctor and let them know your symptoms, travel history, and if you’ve had contact with people who are sick.

Current recommendations include 14-day home self-monitoring for people who have traveled to areas designated by the CDC, such as China and South Korea. It is advised to avoid non-essential travel to those regions, as well as to Iran, Italy, and Japan. While it is not known whether an outbreak in the US will be mild or severe, it is advisable to store a two-week supply of water and food, as well as over-the-counter medications you tend to take.

For more information, visit your state’s Department of Health website or the CDC website.