CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee will pay for its fully-insured members to get an H1N1 influenza vaccination this flu season.

BlueCross will provide full coverage for the H1N1 vaccination, when it becomes available, for its fully-insured members, including those in TennCare and Medicare Advantage plans. For members using an in-network provider, there will be no copay, deductible or coinsurance. BlueCross will pay network providers at the contracted rate to provide the immunizations to their patients. Members whose employers have a self-funded plan will need to check with their employer to determine their coverage.

"The U.S. government has committed to providing the H1N1 vaccine at no charge and BlueCross wanted to support its efforts to protect the public by providing coverage at no cost for the injections as well," said Dr. Inga Himelright, infectious disease specialist and associate chief medical officer for BlueCross. "We are making these important coverage adjustments to simplify the process for our members in hopes that they take advantage of this important preventive measure."

BlueCross has also taken steps to ensure antiviral prescriptions Tamiflu® and Relenza®—commonly prescribed to treat the symptoms of flu— are more affordable. These changes apply only to members with BlueCross prescription drug coverage. Note these savings may not apply to members with Blue Advantage or BlueRx plans. All members should contact their plan administrator to confirm their drug coverage.

Both antiviral medications require a physician’s prescription. Members should consult their doctor about the benefits and possible side effects before taking.

Although much of the focus is on H1N1, Himelright encourages everyone, especially those at a higher risk of complications from flu, to protect themselves with a separate seasonal flu shot. Each year, seasonal flu alone poses a major health threat to many Americans.

Until the vaccinations for H1N1 and seasonal flu become available, and throughout the flu season, Himelright encourages these effective and easy measures to protect against illness:

• Avoid close contact with other people.

• Stay home if you get sick. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw away the tissue after you use it.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

• Practice other healthy habits such as exercise, stress reduction and healthy eating.

More information on H1N1 and seasonal flu can be found at the following:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee www.bcbst.com/learn/flu/H1N1-flu.shtml

Tenn. Poison Ctr./Tenn. Dept. of Health Flu information Line 1-877-252-3432

About BlueCross

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee's mission is to provide its customers and communities with peace of mind through affordable solutions for health and healing, life and living. Founded in 1945, the Chattanooga-based company is focused on reinventing the health plan for its 3 million members in Tennessee and across the country. Through its integrated health management approach, BlueCross provides patient-centric products and services that drive health improvement and positively impact health care quality and value. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Inc. is an independent licensee of the BlueCross BlueShield Association. For more information, visit the company's website at www.bcbst.com.