Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE) is extending the waiver of member cost shares for in-network coronavirus (COVID-19) testing and inpatient/outpatient treatment, including telehealth, through Sept. 30, 2020. During the pandemic, the company has seen a significant increase in telehealth usage. BCBSNE began waiving member cost shares for telehealth in early March.

“In the face of COVID-19, we have focused on the safety and well-being of our community – making sure members have access to the care they need and, at the same time, easing the burden on our providers,” said Susan Courtney, Executive Vice President of Operations and Clinical Effectiveness. “We embraced telehealth to help keep people engaged in health care, while mitigating spread of the virus. Our customers have, too; the data is eye-opening.”

Telehealth claims among BCBSNE members were up 963% in March, and an astounding 3612% in April, compared to February 2020. Over half of these telehealth visits – 53% – were for behavioral health.

“It’s particularly encouraging to know members are able to safely get much-needed care during this stressful time,” said William McDonnell, MD, Medical Director for Medical Policy. “Now that patients, providers and insurance companies alike clearly see how well telehealth can work for certain types of care, this experience will almost certainly change the way treatment will be delivered moving forward.”

Increased comfort with telehealth creates more opportunities to engage patients in rural Nebraska and isolated settings, as well as those with limited time or mobility. The technology enables easier access to medical specialists, efficient coordination of care among the health care team and convenient self-management of health care for patients.

Benefits for covered telehealth services not related to COVID-19 will be subject to normal plan cost shares beginning July 1, 2020. BCBSNE will reimburse in-network providers for telehealth at 100% of the established office visit fee. BCBSNE was the first commercial health insurance company in Nebraska to make this change in how providers are paid for telehealth, a fact noted by Gov. Pete Ricketts during his COVID-19 press conference on March 27.