Tricare, the insurer for the U.S. military’s health care systems, accidentally implied that more than 600,000 of its beneficiaries had coronavirus when it sent out a recent email requesting blood plasma donations from COVID-19 survivors.
Military.com reported the erroneous Tricare email, which went out to recipients of the healthcare system in 31 U.S. states in Tricare’s East Region. The email appeared as a call from Humana Military for recipients who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 to donate their blood plasma, also known as convalescent plasma, which researchers believe may be used to help treat future coronavirus patients.
“As a survivor of COVID-19, it’s safe to donate whole blood or blood plasma, and your donation could help other COVID-19 patients. Your plasma likely has antibodies (or proteins) present that might help fight the coronavirus infection. Currently, there is no cure for COVID-19. However, there is information that suggests plasma from COVID-19 survivors, like you, might help some patients recover more quickly from COVID-19,” said the email from Humana Military, which manages Tricare for much of the East Region.
The email reportedly went out to more than 600,000 people in the Tricare East Region. To date, around 31,000 people across the Department of Defense, including service members, family members, civilian employees and contractors have diagnosed with the coronavirus. Tricare’s website indicates the health insurance is only available to uniformed service members and their families, survivors, former spouses, Medal of Honor recipients and their families, and others registered with the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS).
Humana admitted to the mistake hours after the erroneous email went out.
“In an attempt to educate beneficiaries who live close to convalescent plasma donation centers about collection opportunities, you received an email incorrectly suggesting you were a COVID-19 survivor. You have not been identified as a COVID-19 survivor and we apologize for the error and any confusion it may have caused,” Humana wrote.
Marvin Hill, Humana’s head of corporate communications apologized for the company’s error and said the email was intended to notify patients based on their proximity to a plasma donation facility, and not based “on any medical information or diagnosis.”
“As a part of an effort to educate military beneficiaries about convalescent plasma donation opportunities, Humana was asked to assist our partner, the Defense Health Agency. Language used in email messages to approximately 600k beneficiaries gave the impression that we were attempting to reach only people who had tested positive for COVID-19,” Hill told Military.com.
The Department of Defense announced in May an initiative to collect 8,000 units of convalescent plasma by Sept. 30. To date, the DOD has collected more than 4,600 units and has reportedly expanded its goal to 10,000 units.