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Blues plans embrace telemedicine reimbursement

Some say insurer adoption key to expanding telehealth

In an attempt to bring more convenient healthcare options to their members, Blue Cross Blue Shield plans across the country are starting to reimburse more telemedicine services.

Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) of Alabama announced in December that it would reimburse for some telemedicine services, and it hopes this will bring more complicated treatment options to the rural areas of the state, AL.com reports. These services will include outpatient cardiology, behavioral health, dermatology, infectious diseases and neurology, which are specialties not easily found outside of highly populated areas.

In another Southern state, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina is now offering telehealth to its SC BlueCross and SC BlueChoice members through a program called Blue CareOnDemand, according to Greenville Online. The program allows members to consult a doctor via live video for minor conditions such as colds, bruises or headaches. "From the consumer standpoint, it offers something that's potentially very attractive," Chief Medical Officer Shawn Stinson, M.D., tells the publication. 

In Alabama, some clinics have been struggling with the reimbursement process for telemedicine services, which has resulted in several unpaid claims, according to AL.com. That's why BCBS of Alabama's expanded coverage is so significant. 

"It's huge," Rena Brewer, the chief executive officer of Global Partnership for Telehealth, said in the article. "The states where insurers pay for telemedicine--that's where you're going to find telemedicine growing and thriving."

Philadelphia-based Independence Blue Cross also announced this week that it will offer coverage for some telemedicine consultations, saying it hopes to expand members' care options without compromising their relationship with primary care physicians.

To learn more:
- here is the AL.com article
- read the Greenville Online article

Related Articles:
Independence Blue Cross to cover telehealth visits
Kaiser Permanente's Angie Stevens: ACA a factor in our telehealth growth
Better research required for effective use of teleheath