Arkansas Blue Cross and Health Advantage boost remotely delivered care during COVID-19 outbreak

Thursday, March 19, 2020

The current COVID-19 outbreak and the use of social distancing in responding to it have produced an immediate need for Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Health Advantage to give fully insured members expanded health insurance benefits to promote greater access to remotely delivered services – including greatly expanded insurance benefits to help them deal with emotional/behavioral issues the outbreak may create or compound.

Accordingly, 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. During this time, Arkansas Blue Cross and Health Advantage also are waiving costs their fully insured members normally would have to pay for such services, when received from an in-network provider. These temporary changes will be in effect through at least May 15, 2020, and could be extended after that, if circumstances warrant.

“We are encouraging people to use technology, as advised and assisted by their health care provider, to get the care they need and also use the medically smart practice of social distancing,” said Mark T. Jansen, M.D., vice president and chief medical officer for Arkansas Blue Cross. “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.”

And while social distancing is a weapon in the battle against coronavirus, Arkansas Blue Cross and Health Advantage recognize that it can also affect the peace of mind of members.

“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,” said Curtis Barnett, Arkansas Blue Cross president and chief executive officer. “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.