When Justin Steinman arrived at his Wellesley, Massachusetts office on March 4, he readied himself for a busy day. Although not yet extreme, confirmed COVID-19 cases reported by the CDC were rapidly emerging and had jumped overnight from 98 to 164 cases in the United States.
The forefront of telemedicine
At 11:00 AM, Justin’s phone rang.
On the line was Dan Finke, Executive Vice President, Commercial Business and Markets, Aetna.
He asked Justin to brainstorm ideas on how Aetna could respond to COVID-19, specifically around increasing access to care and ensuring cost would not stop any member from receiving a COVID-19 test or treatment.
Telemedicine was a no brainer.
“Aetna has long been a believer in telemedicine,” said Justin Steinman, vice president, Commercial Products, Aetna. “We quickly figured out a way to expand telemedicine access. By using telemedicine, we ensure our members get the care they need from home, thus helping to lower their potential exposure to COVID-19, and also reducing the exposure risk providers face.”
The right risks with members in mind
Forty-eight hours later, Aetna announced its plans to waive Commercial member co-pays for all telemedicine services through June 4, 2020. Medicare soon followed suit, waiving telemedicine co-pays for all Medicare Advantage members until further notice. The launch would not have been possible without at least a dozen teams such as Clinical, Service Operations, Network, Legal, Compliance, Actuary, and Digital, who collaborated seamlessly.
“Other insurance companies were announcing plans to waive member out-of-pocket costs for telemedicine visits related to COVID-19, but we decided to take it a step further,” Justin said. “We realized that waiving member out-of-pocket costs for all telemedicine visits — not just COVID-19 — was the right thing to do.”
Many Aetna providers are virtual enabled. Aetna members can identify if their doctor is seeing patients virtually by checking DocFind, which is Aetna’s online provider directory. Under current government regulations, doctors can even see patients using Skype or FaceTime. Aetna members can also do a virtual doctor visit through Teladoc®, an industry leader in telemedicine.
“Since we announced the telemedicine co-pay waiver, our Teladoc member visit volume has grown,” Justin said. “The large majority of those visits are for reasons other than COVID-19-related symptoms. Member feedback is that they appreciate the speed and convenience of telemedicine, particularly at a time when we’re all being encouraged to stay home.”
MinuteClinic Video Visits are an affordable cash pay option for people who do not have health insurance, with visits costing $59. Video Visits are also covered by most Aetna insurance plans.
“The best way to keep people healthy is through relationships,” Justin said. “Keeping people healthy requires collaboration between the member, their medical providers, and Aetna. “And right now, telemedicine is a huge component of building and maintaining that relationship.”