Looking Back: How We Kept Our Members Connected to Care During COVID-19
As the COVID-19 public health emergency spread throughout New Jersey, health care as we knew it ground to a halt. Our members’ access to care was impacted as health professionals’ offices closed, resources were redirected and care that wasn’t emergent was suspended — all to focus on fighting the virus.
At Horizon BCBSNJ, we reacted swiftly to continue to deliver on Our Mission: To empower our members to achieve their best health. As early as March 2020, Horizon BCBSNJ began adjusting our business practices to help ensure our members still had access to the health care they needed as we navigated this public health emergency.
Taking care of our members
Telehealth doesn’t just conveniently connect members to care where they live. It also helps protect our members — and the doctors, nurses and staff who care for them — from COVID-19. That’s why we expanded access to cover virtual medical and behavioral health visits, even allowing the use of FaceTime and Skype, and phone-only visits. Plus, we eliminated deductibles, coinsurance and copays for in-network telehealth visits.
Convenient, no-cost telehealth visits continue to be available today for members with their personal doctor or through Horizon CareOnline when they sign in to the Horizon Blue app or our secure member web portal at HorizonBlue.com.
In addition to increasing access and eliminating the cost for telehealth, we also waived out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 diagnostic testing, and for inpatient and outpatient treatment when the primary diagnosis is COVID-19.
Now that COVID-19 vaccines have been approved, our members have coverage for vaccination by in- and out-of-network vaccination sites, including pharmacies, state and county mass immunization sites and hospitals, at no cost.
Our members’ response
When our members needed us most - we received nearly 5 million calls between March 2020 and December 31, 2020 - our efforts to provide our members with access to care helped them get the care they needed. Members began to seek care through these alternative methods, and our network of doctors, hospitals and other health care professionals adapted their practices to accommodate our members’ needs.
From the time the pandemic emerged in New Jersey in March 2020, through December 31, 2020, our members took advantage of the steps we took to connect them to care. We saw:
- 2,374,063 medical telehealth visits for our Commercial and Medicare Advantage members
- 775,274 medical telehealth visits for our Medicaid and Horizon NJ TotalCare (HMO D-SNP) members
- 2,750 members have teledental visits
In addition we have seen 3,469,680 claims paid for COVID-19 diagnostic tests through March 8, 2021.
Before the pandemic, telehealth represented just 0.1% of claims received. By November and December of 2020 that number jumped to 7.7%.
“It’s clear that our members took advantage of our ability to make telehealth more readily available during this harrowing time,” said Don Liss, MD, Horizon BCBSNJ’s Vice President and Chief Medical Officer. “We are proud of our efforts to help our members get the care they need and will continue to do everything we can to help them achieve their best health.”
Horizon BCBSNJ is grateful for the trust our members place in us. We’re here for our members, now and always.