November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, and with 25% of all COVID-19 hospitalizations comprised of those with diabetes and 40% of COVID-related deaths befalling people with the disease, one leading California health plan is calling for diabetics to get fully vaccinated and receive their booster shots. Brand New Day, a Medicare Advantage prescription health plan that offers a special treatment program for diabetics, warns that those with the disease are more likely to experience severe symptoms and complications than the general population.
“Whether it’s the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine, it’s critical that those with diabetes get their shots and, after the prescribed waiting period, their boosters, as well,” says Michael Tehrani, M.D., a board-certified internist with Brand New Day whose Embrace Plans are tailored for diabetics. “Since there are no reported adverse interactions between vaccines and diabetes medications, it is important to also continue taking your insulin. While some patients may experience higher blood sugars for up to a week or so after the vaccine, there should be no serious problems as long as you monitor your blood sugars very closely.”
Among the disturbing revelations facing diabetics during the COVID-19 pandemic:
Diabetics with high blood sugar levels have significantly poorer COVID-19-related outcomes than those with lower blood sugar;
Diabetics with a high body mass index (above 30) are at a significantly higher risk of mortality from COVID-19 than diabetics with a lower body mass index (a fact especially true for non-whites);
Diabetics with impaired kidney function or who have previously suffered a stroke or heart disease are at a particularly higher risk of COVID death.
“Interesting new research is also finding a higher rate of new-onset diabetes among COVID-19 survivors,” says Tehrani. “While the reasons are not yet clear, the fact remains that those who had never before showed any signs of having diabetes are now being diagnosed with it.”
The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs says that COVID-19 survivors were 39% more likely to have a new diabetes diagnosis six months after getting the disease. The Clinical Epidemiology Center at the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System in Missouri is currently conducting a study into the link.
“Some doctors suspect that the virus may be damaging the pancreas, the gland that makes insulin and is necessary to converting blood sugar into energy,” explains Tehrani. “Sedentary lifestyles brought on by lockdowns could also be playing a role, as might late diagnoses due to people putting off doctors appointments during the pandemic.”
Brand New Day, which is available in 23 California counties, has distinguished itself from other health plans by offering a variety of specialized programs in addition to its standard Medicare Advantage plans. In addition to Embrace, the Harmony Plans help members with mental illnesses ranging from major depression and schizophrenia to schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder and paranoid disorders; its Bridges Plans are for members with dementia and Alzheimer’s; and the Select Plans are for members residing in community living, assisted living, long-term care and nursing homes.
For qualifying members, some plans cover transportation to and from medical appointments; vision, dental and hearing aids; 24-hour/day nurse and physician line; and health nurses and life coaches. In addition, members with chronic illnesses are not only treated medically, but in a variety of other ways. They are educated about their chronic and ongoing medical conditions, avoidable risks, nutrition, exercise, self-testing and monitoring, medication adherence to doctor orders, preventive care planning and available community support programs.
Brand New Day's personalized approach to care is designed to keep its members healthy and independent and its team of healthcare professionals share one common goal -- to improve the overall well-being of each member by offering members "healthcare you can feel good about."
For more information about Brand New Day, visit BNDHMO.com or call (866) 255-4795.