COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs
Will GIC members have to pay anything to receive the COVID19 vaccine?
The vaccine itself is being provided free of charge to all individuals by the federal government. Furthermore, the GIC has directed all its insurance companies that they may not charge any co-pays or deductibles for administration of the vaccine. Be aware that if you receive the COVID-19 vaccine while seeing a health care provider for a different reason, you may be charged a copay and/or deductible for the office visit. If you receive the COVID-19 vaccine from an out-of-network provider, you may be charged the difference between what the provider charges for the administration fee and the amount that your insurance pays for the administration fee.
Is the vaccine covered by my health plan or pharmacy plan?
- For members covered by a Medicare plan, claims will be covered under Medicare Part B.
- For GIC non-Medicare members, claims will be covered under the Express Scripts prescription drug plan. express-scripts.com/home/covid19
When will I be able to get the vaccine?
The information below is accurate as of the date of this posting (February 2021). For the most accurate and up-to-date information on your eligibility for the vaccine in the Commonwealth, please visit https://www.mass.gov/covid-19-vaccine.
In Massachusetts, we are in Phase 1 and COVID-19 vaccinations continue for COVID-facing health care workers.
Phase 1 (December 2020 – February 2021): Approved vaccines start to go to 5 priority groups (listed in order of priority):
- Clinical and non-clinical health care workers doing direct and COVID-facing care
- Long term care facilities, rest homes and assisted living facilities
- First responders
- Congregate care settings (including corrections and shelters)
- Home-based health care workers
- Health care workers doing non-COVID-facing care
Phase 2 (February – March 2021; listed in order of priority):
- Group 1: Individuals age 75+
- Group 2: Individuals age 65+, individuals with 2+ co-morbid conditions and/or residents and staff of low income and affordable senior housing
- Group 3: Other workers, including:
- Early education, K-12, transit, grocery, utility, food and agriculture, sanitation, public works and public health workers (see website for full list)
- Group 4: Individuals with one co-morbid condition
Phase 3 (Starting in April 2021): Vaccine is expected to be available to the general public.
Once the vaccine is available, where can I go to get a COVID-19 vaccine?
The vaccine will be available at doctors’ offices, pharmacies, hospitals, federally qualified health centers and other sites designated by state and local officials. For the most accurate and up-to-date information, please visit https://www.mass.gov/covid-19-vaccine.
Once the COVID-19 vaccine is widely available:
-You can find a nearby location where you can get vaccinated using the CDC’s interactive website: vaccinefinder.org.
-You can check with your primary care provider, local pharmacy, or local health department.
Information will also be available on the Massachusetts Department of Public Health website: mass.gov/covid19
Who can administer the COVID-19 vaccine?
In addition to licensed health care providers, such as doctors and nurses and pharmacists, according to the federal CARES Act, vaccinations may be administered by pharmacy interns, certified pharmacy techs, paramedics, and certified medical assistants, under the direct supervision of a primary care provider.
How many doses of the vaccine will I need?
Vaccines currently being administered, including those manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna, require two shots. Other vaccines that will also become available may require only one shot. Be sure to consult with your health care provider.
Do I need to receive both doses of the vaccine from the same manufacturer?
Yes. Cards will be issued at the time of your first shot that will tell you which vaccine you received.
How do I know if the vaccine is safe?
Vaccines will only be distributed if they have met the FDA’s rigorous scientific standards. Please consult your health care provider if you have particular health concerns.
For up-to-date information on COVID-19 and the vaccine, please visit:
Check your symptoms for COVID-19 online using Buoy Health
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has partnered with Buoy Health to give Massachusetts residents free access to a powerful digital tool that uses self-reported information to assess the risk for the Coronavirus in just minutes.
Please note that the Buoy Tool is not to be used in place of professional medical advice, care or treatment by a physician. For medical care, please contact your provider. For medical emergencies, call 911
Here’s how it works:
- Log on to Buoy.com/mass
- Tell Buoy’s Symptom Checker about your symptoms and risk factors
- Learn through Buoy.com whether you are a candidate for COVID-19 testing
- Get recommended next steps and information on available resources
Benefit Eligibility of Furloughed Employees
Pursuant to M.G.L. Ch. 32A, § 3 and Ch. 32B §11, the Group Insurance Commission is charged with issuing information and advisory rulings in accordance with the provisions of Ch. 30A, §8. Under that authority, we issue this advisory bulletin concerning GIC benefit eligibility of employees who have been furloughed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During this period, when all our members are struggling with the impact of COVID-19, the GIC prioritizes any member request to: (1) retain benefits to avoid a lapse in current insurance coverage, (2) access new benefits to which they are entitled without delay, and (3) limit or relieve, to the extent possible,financial burdens by prioritizing life insurance claim processing and by allowing reduction or elimination of optional benefits.
Under the Department of Unemployment Assistance 430 CMR 22.00: COVID-19 Emergency Regulations, claimants temporarily unemployed due to COVID-19 with an expected return-to-work date are classified as “Standby Status.” Standby status is meant to help both employers and their employees in situations where the unemployment is expected to be temporary.
The GIC, in keeping with this definition and the three priorities outlined above, considers employees furloughed due to the COVID-19 pandemic to be GIC benefit-eligible provided that the employee and employer share of premiums continue to be paid. GIC does not require participating employers to report furloughs and will continue to bill participating employers for all existing participating employees in the normal course of business. If at some point in the future a furloughed employee’s status changes to a non-COVID-19 layoff or termination, the participating employer should notify GIC so it can take the appropriate steps concerning the employee’s coverage.
If you have questions regarding this bulletin, please submit an inquiry through the GIC Online Contact Form and select the GIC Coordinator option.
Extending Annual Enrollment and triaging submitted requests
In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the GIC is working to ensure the health
and safety of the public and accommodate
the important needs of our members
and staff by:
- Extending the Annual Enrollment deadline from Friday, May 1 to Monday, June 1, 2020 to provide more time for members to review options and get questions answered by GIC Coordinators
- Promoting member use of the GIC Online Contact Form at www.mass.gov/gic in lieu of telephone calls to help us manage priorities and volume
- Canceling walk-in customer service at 19 Staniford Street, Boston, until further notice
- Canceling the Annual Benefit Fairs in accordance with limits on large public gatherings
- Distributing all Benefit Decision Guides online at www.mass.gov/gic with print distribution for Retired Municipal Teachers, Municipal Employees and Retirees, and Elderly Government Retirees only as local capacity allows
- Instituting a triage system for processing subscriber and new employee requests to prioritize critical requests in the event our staffing and processing capabilities are reduced
Remember: If you take no action, your coverage will continue automatically, your new premium deductions will begin in the June pay period, and your new coverage will be effective July 1, 2020.
If you do submit a change to your coverage election by Monday, June 1, 2020, GIC staff will process it based on the triage guidelines below to ensure that we support our members who are trying to:
- Retain access to existing benefits: like enrolling in COBRA coverage upon leaving state employment or in Medicare upon retirement, or processing premium payments for members without payroll deduction
- Gain access to your available benefits: like enrolling new employees who are electing coverage for the first time, or enrolling existing employees who lost coverage previously provided by a spouse or parent
- Limit the financial burden of optional benefits: like reducing or eliminating additional life insurance coverage or long-term disability insurance
This means that changes you elect may not go into effect on July 1, 2020. If that is the case, you are still covered by your current health plan.
Once we process your coverage change, you will see the new plan deduction in the month prior to coverage going into effect.
Get answers about your eligibility and enrollment status from GIC
- Submit a GIC Online Contact Form at mass.gov/gic: This allows you to ask your question, give us your email or phone number, and even a preferred time of day for a call back
- Mail correspondence to P.O. Box 556, Randolph, MA 02368: This allows us to scan your document directly to our customer service system and create a case for handling by our staff
- Call GIC’s central number during normal business hours at 1.617.727.2310: This allows you to speak to a GIC staff member during normal business hours. This option may not be available if the building is closed or work is suspended. In the event that the building is closed, please visit mass.gov/gic for more information
Get answers about plan coverage details from your current or prospective health carrier
Please see carrier contact information.
To access medical testing if you suspect you might have COVID-19
Call your medical provider first. Do not use public transportation, ride sharing services, or taxis.
It is critical that if you suspect you have contracted COVID-19 that you first call your medical provider or medical facility to ensure they are capable of safely receiving, assessing, testing and treating you without risking further exposure and transmission.
You can also check with a physician through your telehealth benefit to determine whether you need to be tested.
Get help with stress and anxiety specifically related to the COVID-19 outbreak
The Optum toll-free Emotional Support Help Line is available to all GIC-eligible public employees and their dependents, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
This support is provided through GIC’s Mass4YOU Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
This help line is available at no cost. You do not have to be enrolled in a GIC Health Insurance plan to use it.
All calls are confidential in accordance with the law.
To access the full spectrum of work-life balance services
To access the full spectrum of work-life balance services offered to all GIC-eligible public employees and their dependents
Call the Commonwealth’s toll-free Mass4YOU Employee Assistance Program 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
All calls are confidential in accordance with the law.
To access medical or behavioral health care without leaving home
All GIC health carriers already offer telehealth capabilities to support remote access to care through telephone, smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computers.
All carriers have been instructed to waive all telehealth copays to promote its use.
Check this list of telehealth resources by health carrier or look on the back of your GIC health insurance card.
AllWays Health Partners - ondemand.partners.org
Fallon Health - member.teladoc.com/fallon
Harvard Pilgrim Health Care - doctorondemand.com
Health New England - healthnewengland.org/teladoc
Tufts Health Plan - Via Teladoc app on the app store
UniCare - livehealthonline.com
To access your prescription medications without leaving home
Contact your preferred retail pharmacy to ask if they offer home delivery. Some retailers, including CVS, are offering free home delivery during this emergency.
If your preferred retail pharmacy does not offer free home delivery, you may use the mail order service available through both Express Scripts and CVS Silverscript. To learn more about the mail order programs:
For any COVID-19 related insurance claim
The GIC has directed all its health carriers to waive:
- co-pays and deductibles associated with COVID-19 testing
- co-pays for claims associated with COVID-19 treatment.
Medical providers will enter specific codes for testing and treatment related to COVID-19, and those claims will be subject to automated processes for waiver or reimbursement.