Planning to fly during Covid-19? Here’s what you need to know

2020 has certainly been a year of disruption, with air travel being no exception. Aside from checking on your destination status and rules with regards to Covid-19 and employer-imposed restrictions for travel, there are now new Covid-19 infection mitigation related initiatives being tested by some of the major airline carriers. Of recent, you may have heard about United Airlines testing a Covid-19 ‘health pass’ app to enable safer global travel and accelerate border re-openings. The app, called ‘CommonPass’ was developed to allow travellers to share their Covid-19 test status across borders using a trusted framework.

Wondering how it works?

Upon disembarking from an aircraft, passengers can use their phones to document their Covid-19 test results and share it with airline staff, which until now, was being shared on pieces of paper from unknown labs in foreign languages. The lack of a standardised test format and certification was, until now, leading to confusion and falsification of results.

Without the ability to fully trust Covid-19 results across international borders, many countries had no other option than to enforce travel bans and mandatory quarantine periods. Last month, United Airlines also announced that it was working to launch the first testing program for air travellers (for specific destinations), involving rapid tests at the airport or use of mail-in at-home tests prior to travel for passengers flying from San Francisco to Hawaiian airports.

The test in question, Rapid Abbott ID, provides results in approximately 15 minutes and will be made available to United Airline customers to use on the day of their travel. United Airlines does plan to roll out similar testing to other U.S destinations over time. If you’re based in Atlanta, Georgia, and are planning to travel then your best bet is to talk to your primary care physician regarding getting a valid Rapid Test or one of the other approved tests done within 24 hours of your travel date.

As of today, November 5th,2020, Georgia’s case rate has surged to about 14 cases per 100,000 people over the last 7 days. For travellers finding a testing site that knows the airline test requirements or those that offer the required test with results available within a short time frame (i.e., within 24 hours) is posing to be a challenge. Buckhead Medicine, an award-winning premier concierge and traditional medical practice in mid-town Atlanta, offers and facilitates preventive Covid-19 screening and testing. Getting tested is an important step in planning your travel – and it should be important enough to put on your packing list, right alongside your passport.

How do you get a test for Covid-19 in Atlanta?

If you think you have Covid-19 and feel like you have symptoms, you should first call your primary care provider to talk about your symptoms. This is even more vital if you plan to travel shortly. From urgent care centres to hospitals and pharmacies, you can get a Covid-test done anywhere. Due to a limited supply of tests (and reagents) and manpower shortages, most testing sites focus on high priority, at-risk people and turn away travellers. However, Buckhead Medicine has setup in-house specific testing facilities and staff for regular patients, and to support the increasing demand from ad-hoc requests. Simply go to or call to setup an appointment for your Covid-test.

What kind of Covid-19 Virus Tests are there?

There are multiple ways to get tested with regards to viral infection. The antigen based viral tests are designed to detect a current infection, while an antibody test will indicate whether you have contracted the virus in the past. If you are travelling, you will need to take the antigen test to find out if you are actively infected. At Buckhead Medicine, we do this via nasal or throat swabs, as well as with saliva samples – they are all quick and painless, with results generally available within 24 – 36 hours.

How do you plan on when to take the test?

Travellers need to find the apt time to take the test. If you take it too early, the results might not be valid by the time you have to travel or potentially you could get infected in the interim. On the other hand, if you plan it too close to your departure date, you may not get your results back in time. Different tests come with different wait times – while the Rapid Test will give you your result in within minutes to hours, the PCR test can take up to 36 – 72 hours. Buckhead Medicine offers results usually within 15 minutes with Rapid testing. Note – the availability of the rapid 15-minute turn around tests available on-site is dependent on availability to test kits.

Airline analysts think that Covid-19 testing or proof of vaccination could eventually become a pre-flight mandate. If we want our economy to bounce back, and our freedom to travel to return, we must be willing to accept that it’s going to be a different world – one wherein we need to prove our good health to airlines and government authorities in order to travel again.

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What services are provided as a part of my annual fee?
  • Same-day or next business day appointments
  • Direct access to Dr. Espinosa via his personal cell phone after hours, weekends, and holidays
  • Minimal office wait times
  • Longer, more comprehensive appointments
  • House Calls (requires additional trip fee)
  • A strong focus on preventive medicine, long-term health and wellness
  • A personal professional relationship with your physician
What is the mission of Buckhead Medicine?

We strive to provide the highest quality medical care, emphasizing a comprehensive approach to prevention and disease management. We want patients to be completely satisfied with every aspect of their care.

Where is your office and are you on the medical staff of a local hospital?

Yes, Dr. Espinosa’s office is in Buckhead, a suburb of Atlanta. He is on the medical staff of Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia and Northside Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. If you require hospitalization, Dr. Espinosa will coordinate your patient care by working with the hospital based physicians. He will also make periodic hospital visits during your hospitalization.

Who will cover for you when you are not available?

On infrequent occasions when Dr. Espinosa is out of town or otherwise unavailable, he will have another qualified physician cover for him. Even while out of town, Dr. Espinosa will generally be available by phone to his patients and to his covering physicians. For practical reasons, we reserve the right to designate another qualified physician to perform any and all services should the need arise.

Do you accept insurance?

Commercial Insurance and Medicare:
Buckhead Medicine is an In-Network provider for Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO, Aetna, Coventry, Humana, Cigna, Tricare and United Healthcare. Our practice fully participates in the Medicare program. Buckhead Medicine accepts all other insurance as an Out-of-Network provider. We, however, do not participate in the Medicaid program. Regardless of your plan, we will bill your insurance for all covered services. It is our intention that no insurance-covered medical services are included in your annual fee.

HMO and Medicare HMO:
We do not participate in HMO programs. As such, HMO patients will not be able to join the practice until they transition to either a PPO or traditional Medicare plan.

Do I still need insurance if I enroll with you?

Yes. Personalized medical practices do not take the place of general health insurance coverage. Buckhead Medicine is a primary care medical practice, not a health insurance program. You are advised to continue your PPO, Medicare or other insurance program. If you are an uninsured individual and desire to enroll in the practice, we will provide you with a discounted fee schedule for office visits, tests and procedures.

What if I don't have health insurance?

For uninsured patients, Buckhead Medicine offers an uninsured patient plan. Although this plan is not insurance, it does cover for all clinic visits and any labs or tests that are performed in our office. In many cases this plan provides for significant cost savings to uninsured individuals. Please contact our office for additional details on this plan.

Will my insurance still be billed for my office visits?

Yes, we will bill your insurance company directly. The annual fee does not cover costs for regular exams or testing conducted inside or outside of the clinic. These costs are billed to your insurance provider in the same manner that traditional practices bill insurers.

Is there a co-payment?

If you have commercial insurance, we will collect the co-payment at the time of service. Medicare patients usually do not require a co-payment.

Do you bill Medicare for the annual fee?

No. The annual fee is not covered by Medicare. The fee only includes services that are not covered by Medicare and, as such, cannot be paid for or reimbursed by Medicare. We will bill Medicare for your sick visits and for any additional services performed at this practice that are covered by Medicare.

Will my commercial insurance reimburse my annual fee?

No, commercial insurance does not typically reimburse for the annual fee. However, some Flexible Spending Account and Health Savings Account plans may pay for all or part of the annual fee. In addition, some insurance plans allow the concierge fee to apply towards the annual deductible. Members are advised to consult their human resources representative at their place of employment.

Is the annual fee tax deductible?

In many cases the annual fee is a tax deductible healthcare expense. Patients are advised to consult with their tax consultant to clarify qualification in their particular circumstance.

Does the annual fee cover lab, x-ray, specialist fees and hospitalization?

Services such as labs, x-ray, specialty visits or hospitalizations are covered based on coverage determined by your insurance plan.

Are there age limits?

Dr. Espinosa is an Internal Medicine physician. His specialty is Adult medicine. Dr. Espinosa is trained to manage acute and chronic medical illnesses among adults. As such, the practice is limited to patients 17 years of age and older.

What if I have an emergency?

If you have a life threatening emergency, call 911 immediately. After you call 911, please call Dr. Espinosa. He will contact the hospital and notify the emergency room of your tentative arrival. In addition, Dr. Espinosa will provide the emergency room with pertinent medical history information

How far in advance do I need to book an appointment?

Dr. Espinosa is committed to providing his patients with easy access to care. All urgent visits will be accommodated either same day or next day, placing the greatest priority on the sickest patients. Annual physical exams will be booked 1 to 2 weeks in advance.

What do I do if I become ill while traveling or away on an extended vacation?

Call 911 if you have a life threatening emergency. Then call Dr. Espinosa. Call Dr. Espinosa first if the problem is minor. With the exception of a few controlled substances, most prescriptions can be ordered anywhere in the country. If necessary, it may be possible for Dr. Espinosa to find you a resource in your area. If you seek care at an emergency room or urgent care center out of our area, we request that you have the doctor seeing you call Dr. Espinosa for coordination. Dr. Espinosa will be readily available by phone for consultation with you and/or other health care personnel. If you should require hospitalization while away, at your request, Dr. Espinosa will establish phone communication with you and your attending physician(s) to ensure continuity of care.

Do you make house calls?

House calls will be available to Buckhead Medicine members, within a limited radius from the clinic. These will be done as deemed appropriate by Dr. Espinosa on a case-by-case basis. Home visits will be billed to your insurance provider similar to an office visit. A separate trip fee is required for house calls.

What if I need to see a specialist or a surgeon?

Of course, Buckhead Medicine patients are free to see any specialist they wish. We are available to help you decide what specialists to see and to coordinate such consultations. Patients may frequently request for “doctors in my area”, and we can accommodate this. We will ensure that the most appropriate resources are used, the earliest arrangements are made, and your applicable medical information is sent in advance of your specialist visit.

What about the cost of prescription medications?

The cost of prescription medications are the patient’s responsibility and in most cases should be covered by their insurance plans. We have expertise in assisting patients in purchasing medications in the most cost effective manner.

Will I be required to pay my annual fee even if I do not use your services?

Yes. Paying your annual fee allows you to be a member of the practice whether you are sick or well. We encourage our patients to utilize the amenities offered such as wellness consultations and emails for appropriate non-urgent health related questions, regardless of your state of health.

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