Making virtual care the new house call
Amid the unprecedented COVID-19 outbreak, health officials around the globe continue to encourage people to make every effort to stay home unless they need critical care. Seeking in-person medical care, whether for COVID-19 or other health issues, risks unnecessarily exposing more people to infection, spreading the virus even further and potentially overwhelming medical facilities and staff.
Across the country, Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies are expanding access to coronavirus care. And a key element of this initiative is helping individuals stay home, mitigating risk to themselves and others, through expanding and improving virtual care. Through telehealth, patients can see a clinician without leaving home—and have the doctor address all manner of health concerns and questions.
On March 19, all 36 locally based, independently operated BCBS companies and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Federal Employee Program® announced expanded coverage for telehealth services for the next 90 days. Here are some examples of how BCBS companies are waiving copays and cost-sharing, as well as taking other steps to encourage members get the care they need without leaving home:
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona is eliminating cost-sharing for telehealth and is expanding hotline services and other clinical support systems. The company is also working with the Arizona Department of Health Services to offer ongoing consultation and support, including translation services, and funding “Go Kits” with thermometers, masks and information for travelers returning to the state.
In Kansas City, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City (Blue KC) is waiving fees for members using virtual care for urgent/sick visits. Additionally, Blue KC virtual care doctors have undergone further training specific to COVID-19.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is encouraging the use of remote care with $0 copays for telehealth. The 24/7 BlueCare app works on any device with a camera and internet connection and is available in all 50 states.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is working to expand benefits to workers whose employers who are self-insured and who may have initially opted out of telehealth or virtual office visit benefits.
Copays, coinsurance or deductibles for CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield members using CareFirst Video Visit for services including behavioral health, lactation support, nutrition counseling and urgent care services are waived.
Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield has expanded coverage for telehealth to all members, including those with certain employer-based plans that may have previously opted out. Additionally, they are ensuring access to tele-addiction services for members in Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia with no cost sharing. Regional provider partners are also providing telehealth services.
In addition to physical health concerns, during these uncertain times individuals may confront mental health issues and need to speak with a therapist. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, Capital Blue Cross, Florida Blue and Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey are among the companies offering no cost virtual behavioral health care.
With the outbreak rapidly evolving, those needing care should check with their local BCBS company.