Insurers relax prescription, out-of-network rules post-Sandy

As the northeast continues to clean up after Hurricane Sandy, health insurers stepped up to help their members during this stressful time.

New York issued guidelines before the storm hit requiring health insurers loosen their prior authorization requirements for urgent services. Insurers also were advised to ease prescription refill rules so members can obtain prescriptions before they otherwise would be allowed, reported LifeHealthPro.

Additionally, New York told insurers to operate a call center and website, which inform members on where and how to receive treatment and list availability of urgent care centers to help avoid overcrowding emergency rooms.

New Jersey issued similar guidelines after Hurricane Sandy made landfall, directing insurers to ease rules on claim deadlines, premium payments and prior authorization requirements, LifeHealthPro noted.

UnitedHealth allowed its members to fill prescriptions early and access a free "emotional-support help line" from its subsidiary Optum. The insurer also said its customer care call center could help members find out-of-network doctors if networked providers aren't available, reported AISHealth.

Cigna members, meanwhile, can refill their prescriptions even if it would normally be too soon for a refill. The insurer also waived all pre-certification, referral and hospital admission requirements and won't require members to pay out-of-network rates. Plus, Cigna expanded its help line to provide personal assistance and support for its members.

Likewise, Aetna relaxed prescription refill limitations and access to behavioral health programs. Aetna Spokesperson Cynthia Michener told AISHealth the insurer also is "mobilizing our volunteer teams in many communities to see how we can help in other ways."

To learn more:
- read the AISHealth article
- see the LifeHealthPro article