To ensure members continue to have access to affordable and convenient care, as well as to encourage physicians to continue to leverage telehealth when appropriate, BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York is extending telehealth coverage at no cost share or co-pay for fully insured commercial and Medicare Advantage members through Dec. 31, 2020.
The recent announcement by the region’s largest health insurer to waive cost-sharing for all telehealth services through the end of the year is an extension from the initial set date of Sept. 9, 2020. Since March, the local health plan has seen five times more utilization of telehealth services, compared to all of 2019.
The increase has been experienced across all age groups, with nearly 21% of telehealth use in 2020 coming from members 65-plus, up from just 6% in 2019. In addition, more than 33% of members used telehealth for the first time during the height of the pandemic. This includes visits provided by Doctor on Demand, a telehealth service offered to most BlueCross BlueShield members.
“It is vital that Western New Yorkers seek out the care they need, particularly during this time,” said David W. Anderson, president and CEO, BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York. “As telehealth visits continue to surge, it’s clear that care delivered in this way is helping our community members maintain their health. Equally important, it has eased some of the administrative billing burden for providers by eliminating co-pays and cost-share. Aligned with our non-profit mission, we know it is the right thing to continue to cover the cost of telehealth services for our members through the end of this unprecedented year.”
In addition to increased volume, telehealth provided quality care during the COVID-19 pandemic as well. Eighty-five percent of BlueCross BlueShield members agreed that their telehealth experience exceeded their expectations, according to a survey that the health plan conducted. The local health plan also identified the top three reasons for telehealth usage among its members as preventative care, sick visits and medication management.