Anthem is waiving out-of-pocket costs for its members’ coronavirus-related treatments
Anthem — the second-largest health insurance company in the US by membership — is waiving cost-sharing and copayments for members in its affiliated health plans for all treatments associated with the novel coronavirus, according to Forbes. For context, Anthem administers BlueCross BlueShield health plans in 14 states across the US and covered 41 million members as of the end of 2019.
Anthem’s move is the latest by incumbent insurers to drop coronavirus-related out-of-pocket costs to ensure that members have access to lower-priced medical care amid the pandemic. The health insurance titan’s play comes on the heels of similar moves by competitors Cigna, Humana, Aetna, and UnitedHealthcare to waive out-of-pocket costs for their members for all coronavirus-related treatments.
And their decisions to waive members’ coronavirus-associated cost-sharing and copayments is significant in that approximately 145 million individuals in the US are now no longer on the hook for out-of-pocket costs that would otherwise be incurred for required treatments stemming from the virus. And given the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus throughout the US, members insured by these incumbents could benefit from lower-cost medical care that requires no out-of-pocket spending.
Although incumbent insurers may be missing out on out-of-pocket generated revenue amid the pandemic, ensuring members have access to zero-cost healthcare services could eliminate the need for more expensive emergency care down the road: For example, unnecessary ER visits cost the US healthcare system $32 billion each year.
The sheer number of members incumbent insurers cover could make rapidly addressing their needs difficult amid the pandemic. The coronavirus pandemic has ushered in a shift in the way healthcare — and digital health solutions — are deployed to provide care for a sizable portion of the US population requiring care at the same time. Providers are relying on telehealth to limit in-person interactions and enable remote care — and telehealth vendors are seeing massive surges in uptake of their solutions: For example, Amwell has seen a 700% increase in patient volume in hard-hit Washington state since the start of the pandemic.
And with 145 million combined members to roll out digital solutions like telehealth to amid the pandemic, big-name incumbents could experience tech-related implementation and usage difficulties as they rapidly expand these digital solutions to meet the immediate needs of their insured members.
But smaller insurtech firms — which are less encumbered by huge member populations and entrenched infrastructure — have the potential to quickly pivot and address the rapidly changing needs of their members. For example, insurtech startup Oscar Health has seen 62% more telehealth visits per 1,000 members in March 2020 compared to March 2019, of which nearly 20% are directly related to the novel coronavirus.
If incumbent health insurers struggle to rapidly expand their telehealth capabilities to meet the needs of their massive member bases, we wouldn’t be surprised to see more consumers jumping ship to insurance startups. Scores of individuals across the US are increasingly turning to telehealth amid the pandemic, which could make the approach of smaller, tech-focused insurtechs attractive — and we could see smaller upstarts like Oscar Health poaching members from the top dogs become a very real possibility post-coronavirus.
(This story has not been edited by Insurology staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)