The leaders of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee have announced the Chattanooga-based insurer will continue covering telehealth services permanently after major spikes in usage during the pandemic.
In March, after the payer expanded coverage to video and telephone visits to in-network primary care providers, specialists and behavioral health providers, claims for the services jumped 18-fold from the same time last year. BlueCross said between March 16 and April 14, the organization managed more than 71,000 telehealth visits for members.
The permanent telehealth coverage expands to cover virtual occupational, physician and speech therapy as well as ABA therapy services.
“We’re committed to helping our members get the care they need, and telehealth offers them and the providers they trust with more options that fit their everyday needs,” JD Hickey, president and CEO, said. “This recent period has proven virtual care can work for preventive, routine and maintenance care, and we’re making this decision because the added convenience can bring better health.”
BlueCross said their decision to extend telehealth services indefinitely was the first among all major insurers, a move leaders said aligns with other steps it has taken to improve access to primary care, including launching a joint venture to open eight primary care and medical centers in Tennessee.