Health Plans Caring for Their Communities

Grainne CarlinJune 03, 2020
Health Plans Across the Country: Answering the Call to Care for Their Communities During COVID-19

In the wake of the COVID-19, health plans across the country have had to respond to a multitude of ongoing changes in a short amount of time. Here are some examples of how payers are making adjustments, working with their customers, and keeping their organizations running smoothly.

Keeping members and community healthy tops health plans' concerns during COVID-19

 Health plans' concerns extend far beyond operational aspects; first and foremost, health plans want to ensure they are taking care of members from a health and financial perspective during this challenging time. 

In a joint letter, Humana President and CEO Bruce Broussard and Cigna President and CEO David Cordani stated, "no patient should have to worry about treatment costs in a time of crisis. We are doing all that we can to remove this uncertainty--not because it is the profitable thing to do--but because it is the right thing to do."  

They, along with several other health plans, have expanded access to care through additional open enrollment periods for individuals, easing restrictions and costs for telehealth services, waiving fees for COVID-19 testing and treatment, providing early prescription refills, and much more.

In this unprecedented time, communication is key. Payers are focused on outreach and connecting members with resources and information.

Aetna's care managers, for example, proactively reached out to high-risk members and walked them through how to protect themselves and where to get tested for COVID-19. And, members who are diagnosed and hospitalized with COVID-19 receive care packages from Aetna containing cleaning supplies, resources, and information. 

Many health plans created support lines that members can call to get answers to their COVID-19 related questions and launched dedicated pages on their websites with regular COVID-19 news and updates, FAQs, and links to community resources, CDC information, and more. 

Some health plans are expanding service offerings to address mental health and wellness. Health Partners Plans offers free online health and fitness classes for members, including dancing, yoga, Thai Chi, and cooking classes. And MedCost partnered with Carolina Behavioral Health Alliance and Mood Treatment Center to offer a free wellness webinar series on topics like managing anxiety, tips to better sleep, and sobriety, to help its members, and the public, find ways to cope during COVID-19.

Keeping up to date with regulations and implementing changes and new requirements

State and federal guidelines and regulations on COVID-19 are constantly changing, and health plans must keep track of the updates and adapt quickly to address new requirements.

Telemedicine experienced some of the most significant changes. Traditionally for primary care medicine, telemedicine has drastically expanded during COVID-19. With social distancing guidelines in place, almost all health plans have eased restrictions for telehealth services and are offering these services at no cost. For example, McLaren Northern Michigan Clinics quickly adapted their McLarenNow mobile app to extend the use and enable physicians, nurse practitioners, and physicians assistants to treat patients virtually. 

Health plans are also aware that social distancing can cause feelings of isolation and potential for increases and substance use disorders and mental health struggles. Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island waived requirements for providers seeking prior authorizations for all behavioral health and inpatient medical services, regardless of whether it is related to COVID-19.

Elevating care and giving back to their local communities.

In this time of crisis, health plans are going beyond just addressing regulations and increasing access to care. Health plans are part of the communities in which they serve, and many have stepped up to give back. 

Colorado-based Friday Health Plans supports local businesses impacted by COVID-19 by placing daily takeout orders from local restaurants to provide meals for their employees. They also partnered with local Blessed Brews Coffee Shop to provide free coffee to essential community workers, including teachers from the Alamosa School District and the Alamosa Police Department.

Health Partners Plans donated thousands of free books that parents of Philadelphia-area children can pick up when they visit local hunger relief nonprofit Bebashi's food pantry.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona and Phoenix Suns Charities donated $80,000 for 5,000 COVID-19 antibody test kits for first responders. And more than 20 of the health plan's medically qualified employees volunteered to work in local healthcare facilities and help provide care to COVID-19 patients. 

In Minnesota, Medica donated $1 Million to 18 local nonprofits to meet emergency needs during the pandemic; support will go to children and families, shelters, health clinics, food pantries, mental health/telehealth services, and more. And through its foundation, UCare provided $500,000 to support Minnesotans impacted by COVID-19. They also distributed more than 11,000 individual hand sanitizers across the state and donated bags for packing food to local food banks.

At HealthEdge, we also have looked for ways to give back to our local community. Throughout this crisis, we have donated weekly meals to the staff working tirelessly at the Lahey Hospital Emergency Room to keep our neighbors and community safe. 

By helping each other, we will get through this. HealthEdge remains committed to our customers and is working to help them navigate these concerns, and we will be there to help overcome challenges in the future. 

Interested in learning more about HealthEdge, our products and services, or want to schedule a 15-minute introductory call to discuss your business opportunities and challenges, contact Janet Barros.