CHICAGO – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL), is improving access to care for members by accelerating expansion of its telehealth “virtual visit” program in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
“We’re committed to helping our members, employer customers and our own employees stay informed about COVID-19 and assisting those who may be affected,” said Steve Hamman, president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois. “To give our members flexible options to access care, which can help reduce the spread of serious infections, we are expanding our telehealth coverage in Illinois.”
Effective March 10, 2020, BCBSIL began covering telehealth “virtual” visits with in-network Illinois providers for eligible BCBSIL PPO and Blue Choice members. This means qualified members whose own provider offers telehealth service will now have that service covered as a regular office visit. This coverage benefit is in addition to the telehealth benefits currently being offered to eligible members by MDLIVE®. MDLIVE is a vendor that offers telehealth by independently contracted board-certified doctors.
Covered telehealth visits currently include two-way, live interactive telephone communication and digital video consultations, which can allow concerned members to connect with their physicians while reducing the risk of exposure to contagious viruses or further illness.
“Limited access to transportation, distance for those who live in rural communities, and conflicts with work schedules are just a few of the barriers that telemedicine can help our members overcome, especially when an in-person clinical visit is not necessary or available,” said Derek Robinson, M.D., BCBSIL chief medical officer. “We are excited to accelerate the expansion of our telemedicine program as part of our COVID-19 response, improving access to care and enhancing our partnership with providers across Illinois.”
“Telemedicine technology has quickly emerged as an important public health tool in combatting the spread of COVID-19 while ensuring care continuity for our patients,” said Rush University Medical Center acting chief medical officer Paul Casey, M.D. “Rush is thankful for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois’ leadership and collaboration in accelerating the ability to provide high quality care in a way that is most convenient and reassuring for patients while also greatly reducing exposure possibilities.“
This telehealth expansion is in addition to BCBSIL’s other actions to remove potential access to care and financial barriers related to COVID-19:
- BCBSIL will not require preauthorization and will not apply co-pays or deductibles for testing to diagnose COVID-19 when medically necessary and consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance.
This applies to all members insured by BCBSIL. Many of our members are covered under a health plan that is self-insured by their employer. BCBSIL will continue to share relevant information to employers considering health plan issues related to COVID-19.
- With regard to treatment for COVID-19, BCBSIL covers medically necessary health care services, including, but not limited to, physician services, hospitalization and emergency services consistent with the terms of our members’ BCBSIL benefit plans.
“We’re collaborating with doctors, hospitals and federal, state and local public health organizations to serve our members and our communities,” Hamman said. “We work every day, not just in times of crisis, to live up to our purpose — to do everything in our power to stand with our members in sickness and in health.”
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois members who feel sick should contact their doctor. For questions about coverage, members should call the number on their ID card.
The CDC recommends these actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick;
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth;
- Stay home when you are sick;
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash;
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe; and,
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
 Telehealth benefits will continue to be evaluated over time by BCBSIL to help ensure appropriate range and scope.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) is committed to expanding access to quality, cost-effective health care to as many people as possible in Illinois. BCBSIL is dedicated to innovation and exploring, nurturing and activating future possibilities to make the health care system work better for our members and our communities. BCBSIL is a division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company, and an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.