New York Information Network (NYIN)
NOTICE TO INSURERS
H1N1 (Swine Flu)
Special Message (posted May 4, 2009)
Governor David Paterson has placed New York State on high alert after the emergence of the H1N1 influenza (swine flu) virus and is coordinating the state’s response in conjunction with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and city and county health departments. On April 29, 2009 the Director-General of the World Health Organization raised the level of influenza pandemic alert to Phase 5. A Phase 5 alert is a “strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalize the organization, communication, and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short.”
For updated information on swine flu, please check the New York State Department of Health website at www.nyhealth.gov.
KEEPING YOUR OPERATIONS RUNNING SMOOTHLY
1. Keep Your Workforce Healthy. The New York State Insurance Department recommends that companies make an effort to educate employees on proper hygiene practices to help protect their employees. The CDC’s basic rules for “What You Can Do to Stay Healthy” should be emphasized:
There are everyday actions people can take to stay healthy.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.
- If you get sick, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
2. Review Your Pandemic Flu Plans. Though the current outbreak of swine flu has not reached pandemic proportions, the Department recommends that every company take this opportunity to examine their “Pandemic Flu Plans” to consider the possibility of high levels of staff absenteeism.
Some of the important topics to identify in your pandemic plans:
- Succession plans for key-employees;
- Employees who are cross-trained and can be shifted to meet new demands;
- The ability to work-from-home;
- Alternative workforce options, e.g., retired employees, etc.; and
- HR policies and procedures that would be used during a pandemic
3. Review Your Ability to Pay Claims. Insurers should conduct prudent stress testing to assure they are confident in their ability to make timely claim payments.
Companies with questions on their pandemic planning efforts may contact Principal Insurance Examiner Vincent Mazzarella of the Disaster Planning and Response Bureau by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, by telephone at (212) 480-5440, or by cell phone at (917) 681-7601.
Special note for health insurers:
We suggest health plans conduct an analysis of:
- Anticipated increases in prescription drug claims (for Tamiflu and other anti-viral medications); and
- Anticipated increases in hospital inpatient days or medical expenses, particularly for those indemnity carriers who may not be paying their participating providers via pre-paid capitation arrangements.
Also, we suggest health plans update their company disaster preparedness programs to ensure adequate staffing of executive staff, support staff and IT staff to keep claim and premium processing systems operational.