Seasonal Flu Cases May Increase This Year, Vaccinations May Decline

Experts say that the H1N1 pandemic prompted 21 percent more Texans to get their flu shots last fall. Now that the pandemic threat is over, insurers like Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas (BCBSTX) are concerned that their members may be less motivated to vaccinate this year. As a result, more people may suffer from the seasonal flu and related medical bills next spring.

“Many may be surprised by the number of flu cases next spring if we do not see Texans getting flu shots and washing their hands with the same kind of urgency inspired by the swine flu last year,” said Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, vice president and chief medical officer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas. “The fact that more people received vaccinations last fall resulted in 46 percent fewer cases of the flu in Texas this spring.”

In addition to compromised health, influenza also carries a painful price tag. Last year, BCBSTX paid approximately $65.6 million in flu costs. However, by promoting immunization, the company helped control rising medical costs, saving more than $123.5 million in flu related expenses - $29.2 million of which would have come out of members’ pockets. Because BCBSTX covers the cost of flu shots in many cases, each member could save as much as $71 – the average cost of the flu – simply by getting immunized. Immunizations cost BCBSTX $19 million in 2009.

“Health care costs are reflected in premiums, so the flu shot is a smart financial decision for our members,” said Dr. Sanchez. “More importantly, however, the vaccination is important for everyone’s health and well-being.”

BCBSTX members should ask their doctors about getting the flu shot. They may also call the 1-800 number on the back of their ID cards, if they have questions about coverage.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas -- the only statewide, customer-owned health insurer in Texas – is the largest provider of health benefits in the state, working with nearly 40,000 physicians and 400 hospitals to serve 4.5 million members in all 254 counties. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas is a Division of Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC operates Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in Texas, Illinois, Oklahoma and New Mexico), the country’s largest customer-owned health insurer and fourth largest health insurer overall. HCSC is a Mutual Legal Reserve Company and an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

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