Health insurance provider Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield and its affiliate Health Advantage announced a plan Thursday (March 19) to give fully insured members expanded health insurance benefits to promote greater access to remotely delivered services.
The move is in response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak and the use of social distancing as a means of slowing the spread of the disease.
The benefits include expanded insurance benefits to help customers deal with emotional/behavioral issues the outbreak may create or compound.
Arkansas Blue Cross and Health Advantage are encouraging fully insured members and healthcare providers to use audio-visual and telephone technology for certain services related to physical and/or behavioral health, in lieu of an in-person visit, where appropriate in the provider’s professional judgment.
The providers also are waiving costs fully insured members normally would have to pay for such services, when received from an in-network provider. The changes are temporary and will be in effect through at least May 15, 2020.
“We are encouraging people to use technology, as advised and assisted by their healthcare provider, to get the care they need and also use the medically smart practice of social distancing,” Dr. Mark T. Jansen, vice president and chief medical officer for Arkansas Blue Cross, said in a statement. “A provider may be able to help a member in their home, through a video chat or just a simple phone call. During this current public health emergency, we have temporarily waived all out-of-pocket costs for these services. It’s an option that may be easier and safer for members and their providers. Out-of-pocket costs for in-person coronavirus testing have been waived, as well, so members can get the care they need and do their part to help curb the spread of coronavirus at the same time.”
While social distancing is being encouraged to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, Arkansas Blue Cross and Health Advantage recognize it can also affect the peace of mind.
“Concern for our health and that of our loved ones. Closings of schools and businesses. Cancellations of church activities, sporting events and gatherings. Added economic worries. These things are all products of the coronavirus outbreak, and they each can take a toll on our emotional well-being and mental state,” Curtis Barnett, Arkansas Blue Cross president and CEO, said in a statement. “Mental health is vitally important, and we want our members’ insurance benefits to make it easier, in this critical period, for them to gain access to professional help if they need it.”
Arkansas Blue Cross and Health Advantage fully insured members have access to an in-network, statewide panel of almost 2,300 behavioral health professionals already credentialed and ready to serve their emotional/mental health needs.
Arkansas Blue Cross is the largest health insurance provider in the state. Health Advantage is the state’s largest and oldest health maintenance organization (HMO).