Blue Shield of California
COVID-19 Resource Center for Employers, Plan Sponsors, Brokers and Consultants

B2B General

June 05, 2020 - 3 min read

Blue Shield continues to waive cost sharing for Teladoc® services

Out-of-pocket costs for Teladoc® waived through September 30, 2020

Even as coronavirus infection rates begin to drop and many jurisdictions move toward loosening stay-at-home restrictions, Blue Shield of California will continue to waive out-of-pocket costs for Teladoc® services, medical and behavioral health, for members through September 30, 2020.

“As we continue to closely monitor the COVID-19 situation, we believe making telemedicine more readily available provides critical support to our members during this unprecedented time,” said Terry Gilliland, M.D. Chief Medical Officer, Blue Shield of California.

Blue Shield eliminated cost sharing for Teladoc® services starting March 16 to help remove barriers to care while encouraging physical distancing during COVID-19 isolation and reducing the number of visits to medical facilities.

We also expanded Teladoc® coverage to include behavioral health services for the following members, regardless of whether their plan previously included Teladoc® medical services or Teladoc® behavioral health:

  • Individual and Family Plan (IFP)

  • Medicare and MedSupp

  • Small group

  • Fully-insured large and premier groups

For self-funded plans, telemedicine services may also be available through Teladoc® if the plan sponsor elects to offer those programs.

For more information on the Teladoc® cost waiver, and other accommodations during this public health crisis, please see the Frequently Asked Questions that cover a variety of COVID-19-related topics.

Improving access to care when and where employees need it

Telemedicine will continue to be an important part of our approach to healthcare delivery in a COVID-19 world. While low-contact health care plays a crucial role in preventing the spread of coronavirus, digital health services are also part of our long-term vision for providing sustainably affordable right-time, right-place care for all of our members.

One of the ways we deliver telemedicine to our members is through our contract with Teladoc®. The numbers they provided us since the onset of COVID-9 look promising. After an initial surge of Teladoc® registrations and virtual visits in March at the beginning of the shutdown, members continued to embrace the service throughout April, with a 6.5% increase in visits to 13,047 for the month. Members are increasingly comfortable with using Teladoc® for diagnosing and getting prescriptions to treat conditions such as urinary tract infections, sinusitis and skin rashes, and satisfaction rates are at an all-time high, a reported 100%.

Members are also taking full advantage of the on-demand aspects of Teladoc®, with 89% of visits on demand versus 11% scheduled, and 48% of visits made during evening hours or overnight.

The average response time for April was fast, around 10 minutes, largely because Teladoc® has aggressively expanded its provider panels to handle the current volume.

A chart showing when people are using Teladoc: 52% between 8am - 4pm, 42% between 4pm - 12am and 6% between 12am - 8am. (Source: Teladoc Health, April 2020)

Lowering healthcare
costs in the long run

While it’s clear that telemedicine reduces the load on healthcare facilities during a public health crisis, it is also important for employers to note that it replaces the need for costlier trips to urgent care and emergency rooms any time.

A chart showing where a member would have gone if Teladoc were not available: 50% Urgent Care, 28% PCP, 12% No treatment, 6% Emergency room, 4% Specialist. (Source: Teladoc Health, April 2020)

Teladoc® estimates that the average claim savings per individual episode is a little over $500. Multiplied by the number of Blue Shield visits in 2020 to date, this resulted in a total net claim savings (YTD) of $6 – 8 million in healthcare costs. These estimates are based on data as of April 2020 and reflect current utilization rates.

Tele-behavioral health
meets a growing need

For more than two months, members have endured stressful changes to their work and family lives while also being isolated from their usual social supports. All of this can lead to depression, anxiety and other mental health issues — which is why Blue Shield began expanding access to tele-behavioral health services through Teladoc® in response to COVID-19.

Through Teladoc® behavioral health, Blue Shield members are currently experiencing an average response time of less than 24 hours and, while utilization is low at between 0.20% – 0.25%, we are confident those numbers will grow as more members become aware of the offering. And, as with other Teladoc® services, higher utilization will lead to cost savings by replacing visits to the emergency room as well as improving employee mental health.

A chart showing where a member would have gone if Teladoc were not available: 34% Therapist, 29% No treatment, 22% Psychiatrist, 12% PCP, 1% Emergency room, 1% EAP. (Source: Teladoc Health, April 2020)

Teladoc®’s behavioral services include most types of treatment that currently exist for mental health conditions including anxiety, depression, PTSD, panic disorders, domestic issues, eating disorders, and substance abuse.

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For more information about our Teladoc® waiver, see Frequently Asked Questions.

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