Washington state insurance and health officials are urging health insurers to ensure that as many state residents as possible have access to H1N1 (swine flu) vaccine and treatment.
"So far, this flu has proven less virulent than initially feared," said Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. "But we want insurers to be fully prepared for what looks to be a challenging flu season."
The H1N1 vaccine is expected to be available in October, with children and pregnant women among the first to recieve it, Washington Secretary of Health Mary Selecky said.
H1N1 influenza A first hit Washington state last spring. About 160 people in the state have been hospitalized so far, and 14 have died from the virus.
In a letter sent out to insurers this week, Kreidler and Selecky ask insurers to do several things:
-optimize coverage for both the swine flu and regular seasonal flu vaccine, including quickly paying health-care providers and reimbursing claims.
-tell people they cover where and how to get vaccinated.
-augment drug coverage to ensure access to the flu-fighting drugs Tamiflu and Relenza.
The Washington state letter is similar to one sent out recently by Kansas insurance and health officials, who urged similar steps.