Abarca Health spreads the word on the benefits of the flu vaccination in times of Covid-19

As we face a new healthcare environment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a high probability that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both spread this fall and winter. Healthcare systems could likely be overwhelmed treating patients with both of these viruses, meaning getting a flu vaccine during 2020-2021 is more critical than ever.

In our quest for a better way in healthcare, Abarca goes all in to spread the word on the importance of the flu vaccination to high risk patients, parents, and caregivers. While getting a flu vaccine will not protect you against COVID-19, there are many significant benefits, such as reducing the risk of flu illness, hospitalization, death, and saving healthcare resources for patients with COVID-19.

Main facts:

1. Flu vaccination can keep you from getting sick with the flu. During seasons when the flu vaccine viruses are similar to circulating flu viruses, the flu vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of going to the doctor with flu by 40 percent to 60 percent.

2. Flu vaccination can reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization for children, working-age adults, and older adults. Recent studies show that the flu vaccine prevents tens of thousands of hospitalizations each year. For example, during 2018-2019, flu vaccination prevented an estimated 58,000 flu-related hospitalizations. In recent years, flu vaccines have reduced the risk of flu-associated hospitalizations among older adults on average by about 40%. Another 2020 study found that during the 2018-2019 flu season, flu vaccination reduced flu-associated hospitalization by 41% and flu-associated emergency department visits by half among children (aged six months to 17 years old).​

3. Flu vaccination is an important preventive tool for people with chronic health conditions. Flu vaccination has been associated with lower rates of some cardiac events among people with heart disease, especially among those who had a cardiac event in the past year. Also, Flu vaccination can reduce worsening and hospitalization for flu-related chronic lung disease, such as in persons with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Flu vaccination has also been shown in separate studies to be associated with reduced hospitalizations among people with diabetes and chronic lung disease.

4. Flu vaccination helps protect women during and after pregnancy. Vaccination reduces the risk of flu-associated acute respiratory infection in pregnant women by about one-half. A 2018 study that included influenza seasons from 2010-2016 showed that getting a flu shot reduced a pregnant woman’s risk of being hospitalized with flu by an average of 40 percent. Other studies have also shown that in addition to helping to protect pregnant women, a flu vaccine given during pregnancy helps protect the baby from flu for several months after birth when he or she is not old enough to be vaccinated.

5. Flu vaccination can be lifesaving in children. A 2017 study was the first of its kind to show that flu vaccination can significantly reduce a child’s risk of dying from flu.

6. Flu vaccination has been shown in several studies to reduce the severity of illness in people who get vaccinated but still get sick. A 2018 study showed that among adults hospitalized with flu, vaccinated patients were 59 percent less likely to be admitted to the ICU than those who had not been vaccinated. Among adults in the ICU with flu, vaccinated patients on average spent four fewer days in the hospital than those who were not vaccinated.

Getting vaccinated yourself may also protect people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people, and people with certain chronic health conditions. Despite the many benefits offered by flu vaccination, only about half of Americans get an annual flu vaccine, and flu continues to cause millions of illnesses, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and tens of thousands of deaths. Many more people could be protected from the flu if more people got vaccinated.

As we approach influenza season (the peak of which occurs in December through February), the influenza vaccination will be essential to reduce the impact of respiratory illnesses in the population and can help decrease further burdens on the healthcare system.

Learn more about seasonal influenza, including how to prevent it, the benefits of getting vaccinated, and how the influenza vaccine works. We recommend that you talk to your healthcare professional about which vaccine is right for you and your loved ones.

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*This blog post was written by Lillian Colón-López, MPH, Pharm. D., Clinical Client Adviser at Abarca Health.

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/vaccine-benefits.htm. Other references for the studies listed above can be found at Publications on Influenza Vaccine Benefits. Also, see the A Strong Defense Against Flu: Get Vaccinated fact sheet.

World Diabetes Awareness Day: Nurses make the difference

World Diabetes Day is the global community’s most extensive diabetes awareness campaign reaching an audience of over 1 billion people in more than 160 countries. The campaign draws attention to issues of great importance to the diabetes world and keeps diabetes firmly in the public and political spotlight.

In 2020, the World Diabetes Day campaign focuses on promoting nurses’ role in the prevention and management of diabetes. Learn more about the theme and key messages and view the resources available for you to take part in this campaign.

What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. Over time, having too much glucose in your blood can cause health problems, such as heart disease, nerve damage, eye problems, and kidney disease. The good news is that with the proper knowledge and tools, you can take steps to prevent diabetes and manage it to live a normal life.

According to the National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), an estimated 30.3 million people in the U.S (9.4% of the population) have diabetes. Worst yet, about 1 in 4 people with diabetes don’t know they have it. An estimated 84.1 million Americans aged 18 years or older have pre-diabetes. Take the pre-diabetes risk test.

Learn the differences between Diabetes Type 1 versus Type 2:
There are important differences between type 1 diabetes (~5% of persons) and type 2 diabetes (90-95% of persons). Other types, such as unusual genetic forms of diabetes, also exist. Diagnosing the type of diabetes is vital for appropriate medical treatment.

Some types of diabetes — like type 1 — are caused by factors that are out of your control. Others — like type 2 — can be prevented with better food choices, increased physical activity, and weight loss. Discuss potential diabetes risks with your doctor. If you’re at risk, have your blood sugar tested and follow your doctor’s advice for managing your blood sugar.

The first step to preventing type 2 diabetes is knowing your risk. Find out through this interactive test provided by the International Diabetes Federation.

When left untreated or unmanaged, diabetes can lead to life-changing complications. Fortunately, there is support and resources out there –with adequate information, you can help change the course of your own or someone else’s life. The NIDDK, along with many other organizations, provides overviews on diabetes prevention, symptoms, changes you can make in your diet and exercise routines, and managing the condition.

The first step in preventing diabetes is knowing your risk. Abarca stands committed to raise awareness diabetes has on our communities by spreading awareness on the management, care, prevention, and education of diabetes.

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This blog was written by Lillian Colón-López, MPH, Pharm. D., Clinical Client Advisor at Abarca Health.

Abarca goes all in this Movember by bringing awareness to Men’s Health

Movember is an annual campaign involving the growing of mustaches and other activities during the month of November to raise awareness of men’s health issues, such as Prostate and Testicular Cancers, as well as mental health. Abarca goes all in to offer men and their families greater clarity on when to get tested, and empowering them with the information to make life-saving choices. 

Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer (PC) occurs from mutations in genes in the prostate and is the 2nd most common type of cancer in men in the country. According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, 1 in 9 men will be diagnosed with the disease, but did you know that PC is 99% treatable if detected early? Prevention and early detection can be a game-changer. Learn more about prostate cancer prevention. 

Knowing your risks is more than half the battle. Risk factors for PC include family history, genetic factors, race, lifestyle, and dietary habits. Take this quick quiz from the Prostate Cancer Foundation to find out when you should start talking to your doctor about screening

It is essential to keep in mind that cancer is estimated to be 42% preventable with certain lifestyle changes. This invaluable resource includes everyday changes you can make to keep your body safe from the kinds of cell damage related to all forms of cancer.

 

Testicular Cancer

On the other hand, testicular cancer (TC) is generally rare but is the most common cancer found in males ages 15 to 34. It’s also one of the easiest cancers to cure. About 95% of those survive more than five years after its found.

Unfortunately, many men with TC have no known risk factors, and those that are known can not be changed. For these reasons, it’s not possible to prevent most cases of TC. Risk factors for testicular cancer include an undescended testicle, family history, HIV infection, carcinoma in situ of the testicle, race, and body size. 

Early detection can save lives! Get an appointment with your doctor if you feel anything new, abnormal, or painful in that area. Find out how testicular cancer is tested for, diagnosed, and staged. With a proper exam, your doctor can provide various tests to get to the bottom of what it is you’re feeling. Read more on causes, risk factors and prevention of TC, as well as treatment options available as provided by the American Cancer Society. 

Mental Health

Movember was initially focused on prostate and testicular cancers but has widened its views and, in time, has added mental health issues amongst men, old and young, to its mission.

Ever since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, measures like isolation and statewide lockdowns were put in place to negate and reduce the spread of the deadly virus. These measures have impacted how we all socialize, and for those who relied on this as their only source of connection with other people, you can bet that it has taken a toll on their physical and psychological health.

Suicide, among other mental health issues, has been increasing throughout the years. With the reduced intimacy, bonding, and social activities resulting from the pandemic, one can only imagine how those numbers will look like by the end of the year.

A May survey from Movember found that almost half of the percentage of men from 4 different countries said no one has checked on them since the beginning of the pandemic. These check-ins are one way to reduce/prevent suicide – as it has been shown in numerous studies.

Movember has taken the initiative and released several digital tools to help keep men connected and mentally healthy throughout these digital times. You can find more about these tools by heading into the following link.

As part of our mission in finding a better way in healthcare, Abarca takes action this Movember by bringing awareness to Prostate and Testicular Cancers, as well as Mental Health, through education and critical information on screening and prevention that can ultimately save lives. If you haven’t checked in on the physical and mental wellbeing of the men in your lives lately, today is the day.

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This blog was written by Lillian Colón-López, MPH, Pharm. D., Clinical Client Advisor, and Juan Vilaro, Rebate Contract Analyst, at Abarca Health.

Abarca raises awareness of Hypertension

The expanded theme for World Hypertension Day is “Measure Your Blood Pressure, Control It, Live Longer,” to increase high blood pressure awareness in all populations worldwide. The day’s primary goal is to educate the public and raise awareness of hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure.

What is hypertension?

Hypertension is a major cause of a range of health problems such as strokes, heart attacks, and kidney disease, and it can also contribute to dementia. Many people who suffer from hypertension are not aware that they have it as there can be no symptoms; they often only find out after suffering a heart attack or stroke.

High blood pressure increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, two leading causes of death in the United States, where hypertension is also prevalent. Tens of millions of adults in the United States have high blood pressure, and many do not have it under control. 

Hypertension usually has no symptoms, so the only way to know if you have it is to measure your blood pressure regularly. Talk with your health care provider about how you can manage your blood pressure and lower your risk. Practice the following six healthy living habits to reduce your chances of high blood pressure:

  1. Keep Yourself at a Healthy Weight
  2. Be Physically Active
  3. Eat a Healthy Diet
  4. Limit How Much Alcohol You Drink
  5. Do Not Smoke
  6. Get Enough Sleep

Specifically, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan is a healthy diet plan with a proven record of helping people lower their blood pressure.

As part of our commitment to finding a better way and making healthcare awesome for everyone, Abarca goes all in to educate the public and increase hypertension awareness.

This blog was written by Lillian Colón-López, MPH, Pharm. D., Clinical Client Advisor at Abarca Health.

Note: The World Hypertension League announced earlier this year that it postponed the celebration of the World Hypertension Day to October 17, 2020, due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease and Control.

Treating their people well: Abarca Health’s Cornerstone

Sometimes, employment benefits, beyond contributing to a sense of belonging and well-being for employees within an organization, can be turned into a concrete business strategy. Few companies better exemplify this philosophy than the Puerto Rican company Abarca Health, which in recent years has positioned itself as a leader in the pharmacy benefit management segment in Puerto Rico, with a growing presence in the U.S. market.

The compensation and benefits package that Abarca provides to its 416 employees or “Abarcans” — among the most complete on the island, and perhaps the hemisphere — has made the company debut this year as one of the Mejores Patronos of PR, as well as achieving the Best Employers Kincentric global certification. However, Abarca’s President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Jason Borschow, offers a pragmatic perspective on this recognition.

“Abarca may not benefit directly but having a work environment in Puerto Rico where we develop the best talent is beneficial to everyone,” he said. “It has a network effect where other employers, in order to compete and retain their employees, improve their benefits, and create an environment where we attract more talent to Puerto Rico, and where more Puerto Ricans stay. It sounds very altruistic and that we are good people, but we are strategic.”

Abarca Health_Best Employers 2020
Abarca Health’s President and CEO, Jason Borschow, fellow Abarcans, and Chester the dog, the company’s Senior Happiness Specialist.

Aside from benefits like 401k retirement and health insurance plans, Abarca has what’s called “unlimited personal time off.” “It’s not the traditional concept of vacation time, but is based on coordination with the team,” explained Mercibel González, Vice President of Talent Strategy. “This benefit of not necessarily being tied to a number of vacation days provides significant flexibility within a person’s personal and professional life.”

During conferences, the executive has received many questions from attendees about the possible abuse of this benefit, she replied: “It was interesting to me because on the contrary, we want our employees to be productive and to know that we trust them. Actually, we have seen the opposite, we want people to take more days off,” she added.

The company also provides a twelve-week maternity leave. “We have offered it for years because we understand that eight weeks is simply not enough, and we are evaluating the possibility of extending it,” Borschow said. Meanwhile, paternity leave was recently extended to two weeks, with a possible extension in the future, the president added. “If we give more parenting time, that helps mothers handle going back to work faster.”

Opportunity despite the crisis

For many companies, the current COVID-19 pandemic has represented great challenges, but not for Abarca. Thanks to a high degree of planning and a small dose of luck, the company has been able to overcome difficulties without much damage and has even experienced growth in its business, without compromising its vision of providing better health services to the population.

“We made the decision to work remotely before going into shutdown, so we were prepared,” said González. “We have a workforce that is already working remotely outside of Puerto Rico, so it was a pretty smooth transition. Of all our employees, only two or three are going to the office, almost 100% are remote.”

“About half of the populations we serve are off the island. Puerto Rico was far ahead of other states in handling the lockdown,” added the CEO. “Later, when there were struggles in respective states, we were already prepared.”

In the months before the pandemic and in partnership with one of the largest insurers in Puerto Rico, Abarca was developing a product almost tailor-made to meet one of the most pressing needs in the era of COVID. This product is the Triple-S en Casa platform, a pharmacy home delivery program designed to expand access to medicines throughout the island.

“We had been planning the launch of Triple-S en Casa for more than a year, with technology mainly from Abarca together with other partners,” said Borschow. “We were piloting with Triple-S and Abarca employees, but when the pandemic came, we decided to make it available for everyone.”

To the company’s surprise, the majority users of the platform has been Triple-S Medicare Advantage subscribers, made up mostly of the elderly. “It was not what we expected because you get the idea that the most technological people are young professionals, but we see elderly and disabled people downloading the application and using it much more frequently than anticipated,” said Borschow. “That notion that in Puerto Rico older people are not technological is not necessarily true.”

Continuous growth

One adjustment Abarca, which has an office in Miami, has made due to the pandemic, is to rethink its expansion strategy in the United States market. “Approximately 20% of our employees live in the United States or outside of Puerto Rico. We have some who live in other countries and already work from their homes,” Borschow said. “We were thinking if we were going to expand, and the pandemic has validated the theory that it is better not to have a huge physical presence, to get the best talent no matter where you are.”

“We thought that the business development process was going to slow down a bit, but it has been the opposite. It’s ironic, but the pandemic has helped us grow our business,” the executive emphasized. Currently, the company manages more than $ 3.5 billion in drug costs for 3.2 million people in Puerto Rico and the U.S., and those numbers are on the rise. “This year we have grown 18% in employees,” revealed González. “We have many open positions and continue to recruit. Each week we are receiving between four to five people, and each one brings a different perspective and knowledge that contributes to our culture.”

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*NOTE: This article was translated from Spanish by Abarca Health personnel. Read the original article written by Dennis Costa published in El Nuevo Día, October 3, 2020.

Join Abarca in bringing awareness to breast cancer

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an effort created to raise awareness of the disease and help those affected through early detection, education, and support services. Abarca stands committed to the cause.

As of 2017, Breast Cancer (BC) is the most common cancer among American women, with an age-adjusted rate of 125.1 per 100,000 women of all races. It occurs when some breast cells begin to grow abnormally. These cells divide more rapidly than healthy cells and continue to accumulate, forming a lump or mass. Cells may spread or metastasize through your breast to your lymph nodes or other parts of your body. 

 Warning Signs of Breast Cancer

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control, different people have different breast cancer symptoms, and some do not have any signs or symptoms at all.

The top 8 warning signs of breast cancer are: 

  1. New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit).
  2. Thickening or swelling of part of the breast.
  3. Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.
  4. Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast.
  5. Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.
  6. Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood.
  7. Any change in the size or shape of the breast.
  8. Pain in any area of the breast.

It is important to keep in mind that these symptoms can occur with other conditions that are not cancer. Thus, screenings are essential and can save your life. 

 Breast Cancer Risk Factors

Though many people believe that breast cancer is most linked to genetics, this is actually not the case. Only 5% to 10% of BC cases are believed to be caused by abnormal genes. According to medical epidemiologists, any woman can get breast cancer. Still, if you have a strong family history of the disease or inherited changes in your BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, your risk of getting BC is higher. 

The most significant factors that influence your risk include being a woman and getting older, with most breast cancers being found in women 50 years old or older, but BC also affects younger women. About 11% of all new breast cancer cases in the United States are found in women younger than 45 years of age. 

Other risk factors include previous treatment using radiation therapy, the drug diethylstilbestrol, smoking, being exposed to cancer-causing chemicals, and changes in other hormones due to night shift working also may increase BC risk. But, the truth is that some women will get breast cancer even without any other risk factors that they know of. Having a risk factor does not mean you will get the disease, and not all risk factors have the same effect. 

Lower your Risk of Breast Cancer

You can’t change some factors such as getting older or your family history, but you can help lower your risk of breast cancer by taking care of your health in the following ways:

  • Keep a healthy weight.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Don’t drink alcohol, or limit alcoholic drinks to no more than one per day.
  • Breastfeed your children, if possible.

Also, if you are taking or have been told to take hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills, ask your doctor about the risks and find out if it is right for you. If you have a family history of BC or inherited changes in your genes, talk to your doctor about other ways to lower your risk. 

Being familiar with how your breasts look and feel can help you notice symptoms such as lumps, pain, or changes in size that may be of concern. In the case that a woman finds a lump in her breast, it is highly recommended that she receives a mammogram to determine whether or not the cells are benign or malignant. Mammograms are an X-ray of the breast and the best way to find breast cancer early when it is easier to treat, and before it is big enough to feel or cause symptoms. Having regular mammograms can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer. At this time, a mammogram is the best way to find breast cancer for most women.

Abarca is dedicated to finding a better way in healthcare and solutions to improve women’s health and quality of life in our communities. Staying healthy throughout your life will lower your risk of developing cancer and improve your chances of surviving if it does occur. By bringing awareness to breast cancer, we can save lives. Early detection is essential in this fight. 

If you or someone you know has breast cancer, various treatments are available and depend on cancer type and level. The CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program provides breast and cervical cancer screenings and diagnostic services to women across the United States. Find a screening program near you or learn more about the disease here.

 This blog was written by Lillian Colón López, MPH, Pharm. D., Clinical Client Advisor at Abarca Health.

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease and Control

Care Management in the times of COVID-19

In today’s new healthcare environment transformed by the COVID-19 outbreak, the patient’s needs have inherently changed, making care management more critical than ever before. At present, it’s estimated that 1 in 4 Americans live with multiple chronic conditions, making the need for patient support between healthcare encounters, essential. 

In our continued mission of value-based care management, patient communication needs to be available beyond the physician’s office. In a perfect world, the ideal healthcare continuum involves a system that addresses not only the patient’s lifestyle, socioeconomic determinants, and physical conditions but also consists of a system in which providers and health plans play an equal role in care management. 

This would allow chronic patients to be treated based not only on their clinical needs but would at the same time, provide them with personalized health education to improve their overall lifestyles. 

With smarter technology, a better experience, and a higher standard, Abarca delivers a better care management method. We built Darwin™, the industry-leading PBM platform, from the ground up to be fully integrated, cloud-based, and unimaginably user-friendly. Darwin™ delivers advanced analytics and reporting that empowers users to provide innovative clinical programs and patient care solutions.

Darwin™ integrates claims processing, pharmacy network, prior authorizations, clinical programs, Medicare and Medicaid compliance, rebate management, and other critical PBM work streams into a single, fast, and friendly interface. Even amid unprecedented natural disasters, Darwin™ has been able to serve its clients without interruption.

  • Darwin RxTarget™ is a predictive analytics tool that enables plans and providers to target members for proactive intervention with the most useful resources. Using proprietary clinical decision-making algorithms, RxTarget™ draws on more than 40 data elements to rank members by the risk of non-adherence and the likelihood that they will respond to intervention and deliver results in a customizable dashboard.
  • We have also created an innovative pay-for-performance pharmacy program that has been proven to extend the adherence curve. This program gives pharmacists the tools and technology they need to keep up with the health of their members in real-time, while at the same time helping health plans improve their CMS Star Ratings.

 

The Ideal Future for Care Management

We can all agree that care management simply cannot live in a vacuum. Payers and providers must work together to leverage data in order to manage costs, quality, and outcomes, and care management is the perfect place to start. Further, while ownership of care management may reside with payers for now, the better way forward for patients is a system in which payers and providers work together toward delivering the best possible care.

This blog was written by Ana M. Rivera, PharmD, Clinical Programs Manager at Abarca.

What is Medicare?

Abarca has deep experience serving public and private sector organizations, including Medicare and Commercial Health Plans, Self Insured Employers, State Medicaid Programs, and Large Insurers and PBMs. We understand the Medicare patient’s unique needs and have been recognized and rewarded for our expertise and ability to serve them. So, what exactly is Medicare?

Medicare is the federal health insurance program for:

  • People 65 or older 
  • Certain younger people with disabilities
  • People with end-stage renal disease

Medicare coverage is based on 3 main factors:

  • Federal and state laws.
  • National coverage decisions made by Medicare about whether something is covered.
  • Local coverage decisions made by companies in each state that process claims for Medicare. These companies decide whether something is medically necessary and should be covered in their area.

 The different parts of Medicare help cover specific services:

  • Medicare Part A or Hospital Insurance covers inpatient hospital stays, care in a skilled nursing facility, hospice care, and some homecare.  
  • Medicare Part B or Medical Insurance covers certain doctors’ services, outpatient care, medical supplies, and preventive services. 
  • Medicare Part D or prescription drug coverage covers the cost of prescription drugs, including many recommended shots or vaccines.

 So how does Medicare work? 

  • Once you enroll, Medicare offers two main ways to receive your coverage: Original Medicare (made up of Part A and Part B) or Medicare Advantage (sometimes called Part C). Most people don’t pay a monthly premium for Part A. If, in your case, you don’t qualify for premium-free Part A, you can have the option to purchase Part A. However, everyone pays a monthly premium for Part B. 
  • Medicare drug coverage helps pay for prescription drugs you need. To get Medicare drug coverage, you must join a Medicare-approved plan that offers drug coverage. This includes Medicare drug plans and Medicare Advantage Plans with drug coverage. 
  • Each plan can vary in cost and specific drugs covered but must give at least a standard level of Medicare coverage. Medicare drug coverage includes generic and brand-name drugs. Plans can vary the list of prescription drugs they cover (called a formulary) and how they place drugs into different “tiers” on their formularies.
  • Plans have different monthly premiums. You’ll also have other costs throughout the year in a Medicare drug plan. How much you pay for each drug depends on which plan you choose.

 2 ways to find out if Medicare covers what you need:

  • Talk to your doctor or other health care provider about why you need certain services or supplies. Ask if Medicare will cover them. You may need something that’s usually covered but your provider thinks that Medicare won’t cover it in your situation. If so, you’ll have to read and sign a notice. The notice says that you may have to pay for the item, service, or supply.
  • Find out if Medicare covers your item, service, or supply.

 

At Abarca, we are constantly monitoring Medicare annual changes so that our Darwin system is up to date with regulatory and clinical enhancements –an example is the Annual CMS Call Letter. We want to make sure our Darwin platform can process changes needed so that the patient, pharmacy, and member has a seamless experience.

As part of our unrelenting commitment to providing a better way in healthcare, our team will continue to educate on Medicare-related topics so that Medicare patients and their caregivers can make informed and up to date decisions on their care. Stay tuned for the next blog post in our Medicare series. 

This blog was written by Ana M. Rivera, PharmD, Clinical Programs Manager at Abarca. Information on the programs’ details was retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/.

Vaccine Planning during the COVID-19 Pandemic

As part of our unrelenting commitment to providing a better way in healthcare, Abarca supports the importance of vaccines for disease prevention and building a culture of preparedness, especially as we face a new reality brought on by the current pandemic. This year, we commemorate National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) to highlight the benefits of vaccinations for people of all ages.

Why vaccinate? 

Vaccines work with your body’s natural defenses to help you safely develop immunity to certain diseases, or significantly reduce your chances of developing infections that at one time readily harmed infants, children, and adults. However, the viruses and bacteria that cause these diseases still exist, posing a threat to those who are not vaccinated.

As we face this new normal, healthcare providers have to change how they operate to provide essential services to patients. Making sure that immunization services are maintained is crucial to protect communities from vaccine-preventable diseases and to minimize the disturbance of respiratory illness in the upcoming influenza season.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides  “Vaccination Guidance During a Pandemic” as a collection of federal resources designed to guide vaccine planning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, various efforts have been put in place around the world, including stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders. In turn, these efforts have resulted in a decrease in the utilization of routine preventive medical services, including, immunization services. Getting routine vaccinations prevents illnesses that lead to unnecessary doctor visits, hospitalizations, and further strain on the healthcare system.

In the coming influenza season, the influenza vaccination will be essential to reduce the impact of respiratory illnesses in the population and can help decrease further burdens on the healthcare system.

In our quest for a better way in healthcare, Abarca goes all in to spread the word on the importance of vaccinations to patients, parents, and caregivers. We promote the health and safety protocols and procedures outlined by the CDC and international entities like the World Health Organization (WHO), to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

Learn more about the vaccines recommended by the CDC with this Interactive Vaccine Guide and talk to your healthcare professional about which are right for you and your loved ones.

This blog was written by Lillian Colón López, MPH, Pharm. D., Clinical Client Advisor at Abarca Health.

World Hepatitis Awareness Day: ‘Find the Missing Millions’

Every year, World Hepatitis Day (WHD) stands as an opportunity for communities of the world to come together under a single theme to raise awareness on viral hepatitis. This year, the theme is ‘Find the Missing Millions.’

Abarca calls on the healthcare community to take action and raise awareness to find the “missing millions” of people living with undiagnosed hepatitis so that they may seek the treatment and support they need. Through awareness, we can save lives through education on hepatitis’ prevention, diagnosis, and treatment options.

What is Hepatitis?

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver, in most cases, the cause is a virus. The most common types of this virus are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.

At the links above, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides comprehensive information about the differences between each type, how they are spread, as well as details on prevention and treatment.

Today, it is believed that 290 million people are living with viral hepatitis and are unaware that they have it. In America alone, nearly 2.4 million Americans are living with the hepatitis C virus, it being the country’s deadliest infectious disease. Despite this reality, many state Medicaid programs still have several discriminatory restrictions in place that keep Americans from accessing hepatitis C treatment and in turn, are preventing the country from ending the epidemic.

The National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR), a national coalition working to eliminate viral hepatitis, and the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School (CHLPI), have recently acclaimed Puerto Rico for removing discriminatory restrictions on access to hepatitis C treatment that were limiting more than one million Puerto Ricans who are covered by the Medicaid program from accessing life-saving medications.

In collaborative efforts made by ASES (Puerto Rico’s Health Insurance Administration), Abbvie (a research-driven biopharmaceutical company), and Abarca Health, these discriminatory barriers have been significantly reduced, increasing Puerto Rico’s rating to a “B” and formally including hepatitis C treatment in its managed care program that covers all beneficiaries. Increasing access to such treatment will help people of the island eliminate hepatitis C and improve treatment options. 

As part of Abarca’s unstoppable commitment to delivering better care to underserved populations, this step forward is an excellent milestone for Puerto Rico’s healthcare system.

Abarca is proud to be able to aid in this great achievement and is committed to the work ahead. We will continue to work with ASES to call attention to viral hepatitis in our communities and support access to the treatment programs needed.

This blog was written by Lillian Colón López, MPH, Pharm. D., Clinical Client Advisor at Abarca Health.