COVID-19 and Your Health Plan

graphic of cells with text COVID-19The Employees Retirement System of Texas continues to work with its health plan administrators, state leadership and other state agencies to closely monitor the impact of COVID-19 (coronavirus). Together, we can assist State of Texas employees and retirees and their families stay safe, while providing greater opportunities for vaccination.  All Texas Employees Group Benefits Program (GBP) health plans are equipped to help participants understand, prevent and, if needed, treat the virus.

Please note: The benefits outlined below for COVID-19 testing and visits apply throughout the declaration of public health emergency by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Special coverage during the pandemic is subject to change. For the latest information on your coverage, please contact your plan administrator as noted below under “Medical Plans” and “Prescription Drug Plans.”

At this time, all GBP medical plans have no out-of-pocket costs for:

  • in-network visits related to COVID-19—whether in-office, virtual or telemedicine—and
  • physician-ordered COVID-19 testing at in-network and out-of-network labs, for those who meet federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. 

Your health plan also has trained staff who can answer questions about the virus and COVID-19.

To help avoid contracting the virus and prevent its spread in your community, we encourage everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated. We also encourage you to know and follow recommendations by the Texas Department of State Health Services and the CDC. Continue common-sense measures like  washing your hands regularly.

COVID-19 Vaccination

All ERS health plans cover COVID-19 vaccination at 100%. That means health plan participants should not have to pay anything out of pocket to be vaccinated against COVID-19, once it is available to them. (Everyone, whether or not they have health insurance, should be able to get the vaccine at no cost, when it is available to them.) Contact your health plan, primary care provider or other health care provider to discuss your options for getting vaccinated for COVID-19. Learn more about the vaccine and find links to helpful resources.

False information has been going around social media that getting vaccinated against COVID-19 could affect your life insurance. Getting any of the FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines through a licensed provider has no impact on any life insurance coverage you might have. Learn more from the Texas Department of Insurance.  

ERS and our health plan administrators encourage everyone to get vaccinated as soon as they can. 

Virtual Visits and Telemedicine

Even today, if you think you have been exposed to coronavirus or have symptoms – fever, cough and shortness of breath – please talk with your health care provider about recommended testing and treatment.

Virtual visits allow you to see a licensed doctor through your smartphone or computer, with providers such as Doctor on Demand and MDLIVE. The HealthSelect health plans offer both medical and mental health virtual visits at no cost to participants or at a lower cost than a typical office visit.

Many health providers are now back to seeing patients at the doctor's office. Many also offer telemedicine visits as an alternative to going to the doctor’s office. A telemedicine visit (through your health provider's platform) is covered by your HealthSelect health plan. Your health provider may refer to a telemedicine visit as an e-visit, video visit or another name. Your health provider will initiate a telemedicine visit.

A telemedicine visit through your provider’s office is NOT the same as a virtual visit through Doctor on Demand or MDLIVE. Telemedicine visits and virtual visits have different costs for participants.

Find more information about virtual or telemedicine visits in your health plan below. 

  • HealthSelect of Texas®, HealthSelectSM Secondary, HealthSelectSM Out-of-State and Consumer Directed HealthSelectSM  (administered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas)
    • Virtual visits– All in-network virtual visits NOT related to COVID-19 were previously covered at no cost to the participant through June 30, 2021.  
      • After June 30, Consumer Directed HealthSelect participants must meet their annual deductible and then pay coinsurance for virtual visits not related to COVID-19.
      • HealthSelect of Texas, HealthSelect Out-of-State and HealthSelect Secondary participants will continue to have $0 copay for in-network medical virtual visits and, after June 30, $0 copay for in-network mental health virtual visits.
      • For more information on mental health benefits, please see below (under “Emotional Support”). 
      • In-network medical virtual visits related to COVID-19 will continue to be covered at no cost to participants in all HealthSelect plans until the end of the declaration of public health emergency by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 
    • Telemedicine visits initiated by your health care provider – In-network telemedicine visits with primary care providers and specialists NOT related to COVID-19 were previously covered at no cost to the participant through June 30, 2021. (Out-of-network telemedicine visits are always subject to the usual participant costs.) 
      • After June 30, the usual participant costs will apply to in-network telemedicine visits not related to COVID-19.
      • In-network telemedicine visits related to COVID-19 will continue to be covered at no cost to participants in all plans until the end of the declaration of public health emergency by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

See more information on HealthSelect medical plan benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Emotional Support

As a GBP participant, you have the following emotional support and mental health benefits at this time.

  • Optum has its Emotional Support Help Line—staffed by mental health professionals—still available to anyone who may be experiencing fear or stress because of COVID-19. Call (866) 342-6892 (TTY: 711), free of charge, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This help line is available to anyone, so you can share it with family and friends. Caring professionals may also connect callers to additional resources. 
  • HealthSelect of Texas, HealthSelect Secondary, HealthSelect Out-of-State and Consumer Directed HealthSelect (administered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas) provides you with options for mental health care. Call a Personal Health Assistant at (800) 252-8039 (TTY:711). Mental health virtual visits can also be scheduled with Doctor on Demand and MDLIVE at no cost to HealthSelect of Texas, HealthSelect Secondary and HealthSelect Out-of-State participants. Consumer Directed HealthSelect participants will pay coinsurance that is generally lower than an in-office visit.  
  • HealthSelect Medicare Advantage Plan preferred provider organization (administered by UnitedHealthcare) – Call (855) 853-0453 (TTY: 711)  for more information on mental health benefits and providers. Prior authorizations may apply.  
  • Scott and White Care Plans – Call (800) 321-7947 (TTY: 711) for more information on mental health benefits and providers. Prior authorizations and copays apply. 
  • Community First Health Plans – Call (210) 358-6100 (TTY: 711), log into the member portal or review the plan website and FAQs for more information.  

In addition to your health plan’s services, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) is offering a statewide mental health support line to help Texans experiencing anxiety, stress or other emotional challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This resource offers support for all Texans and can be reached any time day or night at (833) 986-1919. 

Medical Plans

For information about your coverage and how to appropriately access covered health services, please contact your specific plan as shown below.

Prescription Drug Plans

Please note that the OptumRx early-fill programs in response to COVID-19 have expired. Please contact your prescription drug program with any questions. 

  • HealthSelectSM Prescription Drug Program (administered by OptumRx and serving HealthSelect of Texas, HealthSelect Out-of-State and Consumer Directed HealthSelect)
  • HealthSelectSM Medicare Rx (administered by UnitedHealthcare and serving HealthSelect Medicare Advantage and HealthSelect Secondary )
    • (877) 275-4377 (TTY:711)
    • www.uhcretiree.com/ers
    • An early refill of up to a 90-day supply of a prescription is available.
  • Scott and White Care Plans and Community First Health Plans have early-refill provisions upon request. Call the number on the back of your ID card for more information about these plans.