Premera Blue Cross expands telehealth services for mental health and substance use disorder during COVID-19 lockdown

Premera Blue Cross is expanding its “zero-cost sharing” options for virtual mental health care and substance use disorder treatments during the COVID-19 shutdown, a news release from the company says.

Premera Blue Cross, based out of Montlake Terrace, Washington, signed agreements with three telehealth companies to deliver video-based health consulting for its 2.3 million customers through June 30.

“As we continue to experience the consequences of this crisis, we are seeing the immediate and lasting impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on mental health,” says Rick Abbott, vice president of product and market solutions for Premera, in a press release. “We want to remove any barriers our communities might face in seeking help for behavioral health issues, as well as substance and alcohol use disorders.”

The three telehealth companies Premera signed agreements with are: Doctor on Demand, Boulder Care and WorkitHealth.

According to the press release, the expanded offerings include:

  • Behavioral health services with licensed psychiatrists and psychologists through Doctor On Demand, in addition to the general medical services already available to customers;
  • Medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder, including peer coaching and holistic medical management of substance use disorders through Boulder Care
  • Alcohol substance use disorder telehealth coaching and counseling through Workit Health

Zero-cost sharing plans offer no cost to consumers.

"There’s no consumer cost," Premera spokeswoman Dani Chung says. "If you yourself were a Premera member and you wanted a therapy session, that would be at no cost per your plan."

The services are available to both customers who purchase their insurance through the individual marketplace or through their employer, though customers should double-check with their employers to see if their plans cover the treatment, Chung says.

Opioid use disorder remains a major concern in the United States, despite COVID-19 dominating the headlines. The news about the expanded offerings comes as mental health and addiction treatment have become easier for patients to get during the lockdown.

More from the press release:

Cost shares will be waived for all medically necessary telehealth services from in-network providers, including Doctor on Demand, Boulder Care and Workit Health. Customers may begin treatment with existing in-network providers or our new telehealth providers without a referral.

In addition to these new providers, Premera added new covered services for care delivered virtually. Telehealth is now covered for Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), mental health and substance use disorders Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs), and mental health and substance use disorders Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs). This is a change to previous policies.

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