The Kentucky-based payer, serving more than 13 million people, announced on March 24 that it would waive co-payments for telehealth services delivered by in-network providers, including service offered by MDLive to Medicare Advantage members, services to commercial members in Puerto Rico and services offered by Doctor On Demand to commercial members. The company will also temporarily enforce payment parity to telehealth services by in-network providers.
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In addition, Humana will waive the requirement that telemedicine platforms be audio-visual and temporarily allow coverage for audio-only services, and it will expand the roster of providers able to use telehealth to include specialty providers, such as behavioral health providers.
“We serve many older adults and people with multiple chronic conditions who are at greater risk from the new virus,” William Shrank, MD, Humana’s chief medical officer, said in a press release. “We also recognize that social distancing can be an effective strategy to slow the spread of COVID-19, and some states have ordered residents to shelter in place. For these reasons, we’re encouraging our members to take advantage of telehealth whenever possible, and we’ve updated our policies to make telehealth services easily accessible and affordable.”
“We hope these steps not only improve safety for patients and health care providers alike, but also simplify the health care experience for our members during these challenging times,” he added. “We continue to coordinate closely with public health authorities and regulatory agencies on coronavirus response, and we will make further adjustments to our policies, procedures and guidelines as needed and appropriate in this rapidly changing environment.”
Humana’s announcement follows a similar announcement issued on March 20 by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, which expanded telehealth coverage for members in its 36 independent BCBS companies scattered across the country.
As the nation shifts into high gear to combat the growing Coronavirus emergency, payers are looking to join the efforts of state and federal governments in improving access to telehealth and mHealth services. This includes the state Medicaid programs and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which last week eased restrictive guidelines on Medicare coverage.
Many of these efforts are temporary, for the duration of the emergency, leading telehealth advocates to wonder how the pace of adoption can be maintained once the old rules go back into effect.