Employers are aiming to enhance certain health care benefits — particularly virtual mental health care and wellness solutions — as they look for innovative ways to support their workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, a recent Willis Towers Watson (WTW) survey found.
The survey, conducted in late April to examine the business impact of the coronavirus pandemic, reports that more than three in four employers are offering or expanding access to virtual mental health services. Others say they want to address work-from-home challenges, such as employee loneliness and caregiving needs.
The COVID-19 pandemic is proving especially challenging for the primary care business, but as a result of the crisis, the head of one primary care trade group says her membership is open to working with insurers to leave behind fee-for-service, visit-based billing and enter value-based payment agreements.
However, that requires the survival of primary care practice groups. According to primary care provider trade group Primary Care Collaborative (PCC), an April 24 survey of its membership found that eight in 10 responding PCPs were in “severe” or “close to severe” financial trouble because of COVID-19.
With some states starting to relax shelter-in-place orders meant to slow the spread of COVID-19, health insurance companies are among the many businesses deciding when and how to transition some employees back to the office. Companies that shared their plans with AIS Health say their focus is on taking a careful, incremental approach that prioritizes safety — and they also point out that how their workplaces look and operate won’t be the same as before.
Take Priority Health, where it’s become apparent that “we’re going to have new normals that are going to extend out into the longer term,” says Mary Anne Jones, chief financial officer and vice president of operations. For example, “we likely will have a lot more employees working from home as part of their normal work than we did before,” Jones tells AIS Health.
✦ Health Care Service Corp. (HCSC) on May 5 named Maurice Smith its new president and CEO, effective June 1. Smith, HCSC’s current president, will replace David Lesar, who has served as interim CEO since Paula Steiner left her post last July. Steiner’s departure was followed by the exit of Chief Financial Officer Eric Feldstein, leading some analysts to speculate that the parent company of several Blue Cross Blue Shield plans was mapping out a new strategic course (HPW 8/5/19, p. 6). Smith has worked at HCSC since joining the organization 27 years ago as an intern, according to a press release. Read more at https://bit.ly/2xGUwoS.
✦ Because it’s seeing savings from members being unable to access planned or routine care due to the COVID-19 pandemic, UnitedHealthcare is providing $1.5 billion worth of “initial assistance,” including premium credits, to its customers. The insurer will give its commercial fully insured individual and employer customers credits ranging from 5% to 20%, applied to premium billings in June, and it will waive all specialist and primary physician cost sharing through the end of September for its Medicare Advantage customers, among other measures. Visit https://bit.ly/2yBlej7 to learn more.
Under a scenario in which 25 million people lose their employer-sponsored insurance (ESI), enrollment in Affordable Care Act marketplace coverage or other private plans could increase by 6 million, according to a May analysis published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute. States that have not expanded Medicaid will see more people become uninsured if they lose their ESI coverage. Another analysis by the A2 Strategy Group projected that individual market enrollment could more than double, reaching 26 million, if unemployment reaches 19% and no additional states expand Medicaid.
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