As the COVID-19 outbreak and our responses continue to evolve, it is very important to us at Blue Cross that you know the resources we have available to help you make it through this crisis.
We are continuously updating our COVID-19 webpage, and posting important information on additions or changes to Blue Cross services, programs or benefits to help our members during this crisis. We also include links to the agencies in charge, like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and Louisiana Department of Health. Please check www.bcbsla.com/covid19 out often to see the newest news from us.
It’s important to be aware that this type of crisis can, if we’re not alert, become a threat to our physical and our mental health. So, we’re dedicating more resources and making it easier for you to get care for both.
$0 BlueCare Medical and Behavioral Health Visits
In the past, you’ve seen me write and talk about our remote care telehealth platform, called BlueCare. Last week, we removed cost-sharing for BlueCare, so our members pay $0 out of pocket for online visits for routine medical care. This is not only more convenient, it allows members to avoid in-person visits to healthcare providers. This week, we are making behavioral health providers – counselors, therapists, psychologists or psychiatrists — available to all our members through BlueCare. Again, we want no barriers, so we are waiving cost-sharing on this service, too.
In addition to BlueCare, we cover our members’ telehealth visits with in-network doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, registered dietitians and physical, occupational or speech therapists. In-network providers can deliver telehealth services through online visits or by phone.
For any telehealth visits outside of BlueCare, you’ll still need to pay your standard cost-share (deductible, copay or coinsurance). But, since BlueCare is experiencing higher-than-usual wait times because of increased demand, this gives you more options to be seen remotely for care. Check with your healthcare provider to see if remote care options are available.
Healthcare Coverage Enrollment Options
During this time of crisis, it is more important than ever to make sure you don’t find yourself without health insurance. In fact, we are offering all of our fully insured and small group self-funded employer groups the option to have an open enrollment period for their employees who either didn’t take the option to sign up for insurance coverage within the usual enrollment period or who want to add their dependents to their health plans.
Remember, employers, this is a special enrollment period for those members of your group who passed at the last open enrollment period, and it requires paper applications. I think for most of us, it’s a very different decision today whether or not to take your employer up on a health insurance offer than it was a few months back. Note that this open enrollment period is for medical coverage only, not life or disability coverage.
Group leaders, reach out to your Blue Cross account manager right away if you have any questions about this special enrollment period and how it applies to your group.
Also, remember that any disruption in your coverage (e.g. if you lose your job or have a family change like getting married, divorced or having a baby) will trigger a special enrollment period on www.healthcare.gov. If you get your healthcare coverage through there, you may be able to access things like free Medicaid coverage, federal advanced premium tax credits to help you pay for private insurance, and plans with significantly reduced cost-sharing. Your options are based on your income and your personal situation, but it’s definitely worth taking a look if you find yourself without coverage at any time.
Tune In for News and Updates
We are making strong efforts to get the latest information out publicly through every available channel as well. Just a few days ago, I spent time on “Talk Louisiana with Jim Engster,” discussing all these issues of response to COVID-19. You can listen to that interview in its entirety right here.
I also spent some time on the South Louisiana NPR statewide show “Out to Lunch,” and that discussion brought out a lot of important info about COVID-19 responses as well. You can catch that one here.
Our incredible team of medical directors has also been making the media rounds, to let folks know what Blue Cross is doing and to share information about what COVID-19 is and how you can take steps to protect both your physical and mental health during this time. You can see highlights of their interviews, as well as short videos they’ve made for us, on our Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana YouTube channel.
And, you can always connect with Blue Cross on social media to see the latest news, updates and information on our brand channels. We’re pushing information out frequently here, too.
Straight Talk is, we need to keep our guard up a bit longer. Only go out for really important things, maintain a good six feet of social distancing, wash your hands more often than you want to, avoid touching your face, and avoid people who are sneezing, coughing or seem sick.
Above all things, stay hopeful, and stay safe, and we’ll get through this together. Louisiana Strong.