This is the third part of a three-part series on strategies for payers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The situation surrounding COVID-19 is changing day-by-day or even hour-by-hour, and has derailed most of our normal patterns: People are working from home, kids are home from school, restaurants are closed, and the healthcare system has become singularly focused on containing and treating this virus.
What can/should healthcare plans do? Most are waiving copays on tests and agreeing to pay providers for telehealth visits. Beyond that, the question is what can payers do to best serve their members’ health needs once the immediate crisis starts to stabilize.
Increase access to mental health services: This is a stressful time, as normal routines are upended, there is a lot of uncertainty -- and we are now adding social isolation. Large numbers of members are experiencing emotional stress or anxiety that impacts their daily lives, beyond the 25% of Americans who have traditionally experienced mental illness. Even members who have mental health coverage often find the coverage to be limited; this may be the time to expand mental health access for right now, to allow members to deal with the repercussions of the pandemic. Further, referring members to those services and scheduling appointments during an outreach call – again, whether via an in-person or telehealth visit -- can improve access and can help members receive badly needed mental health treatments that will help the plan save money in the long run by reducing complications and admissions down the road.