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Type II Diabetes and COVID-19

Why are people with type 2 diabetes considered “high risk” for COVID-19?

People with type 2 diabetes are in the high-risk category for COVID-19, but they do not necessarily have a greater risk of contracting the virus.

But if they do contract the virus, they are at a much greater risk of facing serious and even life-threatening complications.

The risk is even higher if someone with diabetes is older, has other underlying health conditions, if they've had diabetes for a long time (many years), or it has generally not been well-controlled.

According to guidelines from the American Diabetes Association (ADA), having good diabetes control involves more frequent self-monitoring of glucose levels so that you can quickly respond to fluctuations in glucose levels; and make lifestyle/medication adjustments together with your health care provider to address fluctuations. It's important to follow these guidelines to ensure your blood sugars are stable at this time.

It's essential that you do everything you can to minimize your risk of exposure to COVID-19. Make sure you have the medications and supplies you need on hand, and you know what to do if you get sick.

COVID-19 is spread through air-droplets that are dispersed when an infected person talks, sneezes, or coughs. The virus can survive on surfaces for many hours and possibly up to several days; depending on the surface. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides information on steps you should take to protect yourself against exposure to COVID-19.

Visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/prevention.html

What should I do if I feel like I have symptoms?

If you are experiencing symptoms or think you might have been exposed to COVID-19, please call your health care provider right away and ask what telehealth options they may have to meet virtually. You may also have access to Virtual Visits with designated providers. Chat with a doctor by phone or video 24/7 by signing in at www.myuhc.com or the UnitedHealthcare app*.

Check your health plan to see if Virtual Visits are available to you. Virtual Visits doctors can answer your questions about the virus, escalate your risk and provide you with possible next steps. Please know that a Virtual Visit doctor cannot test for or treat COVID-19 but will help you determine if a test is necessary and where you need to go to be tested. Hold times may be longer than normal for Virtual Visits due to high volume for COVID-19 care. A Virtual Visit doctor also can assist with other urgent care needs for other illnesses, such as, the seasonal flu, allergies, pink eye and more.

Symptoms of COVID-19 infection can include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

These symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.

However, if you are exhibiting emergency warning signs of COVID-19, seek medical attention immediately. These can include but are not limited to:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face

Consult your medical provider about symptoms that are severe or concerning. Source: CDC

*Accessible if you have UnitedHealthcare health insurance.

How should I prepare for COVID-19?

Because many states are issuing physical distancing guidelines and stay-at-home or shelter-in-place advisories, you'l want to be prepared for lengthy stays at home. Here are some things you can do: 

Know your sick day plan. People with type 2 diabetes should have a sick day plan you've reviewed with your health care team. It's important that even if you feel sick, you keep up with your diabetes management plan.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have prepared helpful information regarding sick day information.

Be prepared with medications and supplies. During this pandemic, you want to both limit trips outside the home and ensure you have enough medications and supplies in case of illness. The ADA has a comprehensive list to help you prepare.

I have UnitedHealthcare health insurance. Have COVID-19 health costs been waived?

UnitedHealthcare has waived all cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing during this national emergency. UnitedHealthcare is also waiving cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing-related visits and treatment during this same time, whether the testing-related or treatment-related visit is received in a health care provider's office, an urgent care center, an emergency department or through a telehealth visit. This coverage applies to Medicare Advantage, Medicaid and employer-sponsored plans.

Care or treatment for COVID-19 will be covered in accordance with your health benefits plan. Your deductibles, copays and coinsurance will apply.

To learn more about your benefits, visit www.myuhc.com/covid.

Do I have access to telehealth services?

If you are experiencing symptoms or think you might have been exposed to COVID-19, please call your health care provider right away and ask what telehealth options they may have to meet virtually. You may also have access to Virtual Visits through designated providers. If you have UnitedHealthcare health insurance, chat with a doctor by phone or video 24/7 by signing in at www.myuhc.com or via the UnitedHealthcare app.

Check your health plan to see if Virtual Visits are available to you. Virtual Visits doctors can answer your questions about the virus, escalate your risk and provide you with possible next steps. Please know that a Virtual Visit doctor cannot test for or treat COVID-19 but will help you determine if a test is necessary and where you need to go to be tested. Hold times may be longer than normal for Virtual Visits due to high volume for COVID-19 care. A Virtual Visit doctor also can assist with other urgent care needs for other illnesses, such as, the seasonal flu, allergies, pink eye and more.

To learn more about your benefits, visit www.myuhc.com/covid.

Can I refill my prescriptions earlier than I normally would?

Early prescription refills may be possible depending on your health plan.

If you have UnitedHealthcare prescription drug coverage or an OptumRx pharmacy benefit and need an early prescription refill, you may request one through your pharmacy. Look at your current supply of medications, as well as what you might need in the near future, to decide if you should refill early.

Pharmacy delivery is available through Optum Home Delivery and through several retail pharmacies.

To learn more about your benefits, visit www.myuhc.com/covid.

Some states are also easing restrictions on when you can refill certain prescriptions. For example, Florida offers the ability to get emergency 30-day refills (even if you recently refilled medication) if you reside in a county under a state emergency.

Check with your state government's disaster preparedness communications to find out whether there are similar statutes in place.

I'm more anxious and stressed than usual. What should I do?

The outbreak of coronavirus is a very stressful event. Fear and anxiety brought on by the pandemic, coupled with changing social norms and economic uncertainty can be overwhelming.

For emotional support, please call the number on your health plan ID card to get connected with mental health professionals, free of charge.

On-demand emotional support is also available to you through Sanvello, a free mobile app that can help you cope with stress, anxiety and depression during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the following things you can do to support yourself:

  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.

Source: CDC

I am concerned about my health at work. Is there anything I can do?

During this time, the American Diabetes Association (AD) reminds people with diabetes that they have rights to reasonable accommodations at work, which could include medical leave or alternate work arrangements.

If you are concerned you are being treated unfairly because of your diabetes, contact the ADA Legal Advocacy team at 1-800-DIABETES (800-342-2383).