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Insurer CEO eyes future filled with telehealth, home visits

Patrick J. Geraghty isnt crazy about his state filling up with crowds of potentially unmasked college students who could spread COVID-19 to more Floridians.

March 28, 2021 / 09:53 PM IST
Source: AP

Source: AP

Spring break takes on a different meaning during a pandemic when you lead a Florida health insurer that covers about 5 million people.

Patrick J. Geraghty isnt crazy about his state filling up with crowds of potentially unmasked college students who could spread COVID-19 to more Floridians.

But the Florida Blue CEO thinks people are doing a good job otherwise trying to curb the coronavirus pandemic. He sees the mild flu season as a sign that people are wearing masks and trying to keep their distance.

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Hes also excited about some coverage and care changes he expects to see as COVID-19 begins to fade.

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

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There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

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Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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The 61-year-old Geraghty spoke recently with The Associated Press. The conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

Q: Will the pandemic change how patients think about care?

A: We will see (telemedicine) as a standard part of care going forward, maybe not as frequently as it happened during the pandemic, but its here to stay.

Q: What about therapy in particular? Do you think teletherapy will also stick around?

A: It depends on patient comfort. Once an in-person relationship is established, much of therapy can happen remotely. We saw a lot of patients that were interested in pursuing it that way.

Q: What is the biggest trend consumers will see in coverage over the next few years?

A: You will see more of a blending of the lines between insurers and (care) delivery systems. I think you also see more at-home care. We bought a company that does chronic care. We think those kinds of services are going to become more popular as technology supports care delivery in the home, which is much more convenient, much more cost effective.

Q: COVID-19 vaccines have been administered for a few months now. Have you seen any changes in medical claims from this?

A: Claims typically lag by anywhere from 90 to 120 days. Its too early to see a difference. But were encouraged by the rollout of the vaccine.

Q: Are you worried about spring break?

A: I am always concerned when I see people in close proximity to each other not wearing masks, and they are not following (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidance ahead of when we should be taking those risks. I think its a little too soon for that to be happening.

Q: Shortly before the pandemic hit, Florida Blue said it would start a program that connects some Medicare Advantage customers with college students or people who can offer companionship. Why?

A: We believe that health is much broader than just health care. There are a number of services that we think add to quality of life and actually contribute to the individuals health.

Q: Does loneliness contribute to poor physical health?

A: Both poor physical and mental health. Theyre interrelated. Obesity … one of the root causes of it is loneliness.
Associated Press

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