Addressing The Spread Of The Zika Virus In Florida

by Elizabeth Miller

September 6, 2016

Dozens of cases of the Zika virus have now been confirmed in Florida, and state officials are aggressively fighting the virus on several fronts, including mosquito abatement, testing, research, and education/prevention.

For my company WellCare, which is based in Tampa, Zika is becoming an increasingly important public health issue for our employees, their families, and, importantly, the members we serve. Our members include approximately 3.8 million families, children, seniors, and individuals with complex medical needs across the country who receive managed care services through Medicaid, Medicare Advantage, and prescription drug plans. We employ approximately 7,100 associates, and nearly 4,500 reside in Florida.

That’s why Staywell Health Plan, a WellCare plan and Florida’s largest Medicaid health plan, is collaborating with state officials and providers to be part of the solution.

The Zika virus is spread primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The illness is usually mild, but it poses an extreme risk for pregnant women who are at risk of delivering a baby with microcephaly, an abnormally small head, or other severe brain defects.

Approximately 1,800 babies are born to Staywell members in Florida every month. To help protect them and to prevent the spread of the virus, Staywell is offering free mosquito repellant to all members as part of their over-the-counter monthly pharmacy benefit. Staywell also is urging members who are concerned about Zika to consult with their primary care physician or obstetrician.

Staywell’s provider relations team is using the “Guidance for Healthcare Providers” materials published by Florida’s Agency for Healthcare Administration to educate providers on the recommended approach for surveillance and testing.

As we continue to serve our members in Florida and throughout the country, WellCare and Staywell are closely monitoring this health threat and will take all actions necessary to help protect unborn babies from this dangerous virus.

Elizabeth Miller is a certified registered nurse practitioner and the chief operating officer for WellCare of Florida, Inc. a subsidiary of WellCare Health Plans, Inc.