BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Making In-Network Telehealth Services Permanent


BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members will have easier access to health care services moving forward as the state’s largest insurer makes permanent its coverage of virtual visits with in-network providers effective immediately, according to a press release the company put out Thursday.

“The BlueCross decision makes it the first major insurer to embrace telehealth for the long-term after the dramatic expansion of these services during the COVID-19 pandemic, a move the company said aligns with other steps it has taken to improve access to primary care. In March, the mission-driven insurer began covering telephone and video visits with in-network providers,” the press release said.

“The change initially included primary care providers, specialists and behavioral health providers and was later expanded to include occupational, physical and speech therapy as well as ABA therapy services. All of these services will now be covered on an ongoing basis.”

BlueCross telehealth coverage includes both member-to-provider and provider-to-provider consultations, and it has seen health care providers across Tennessee demonstrate increasing support for these services. Making telehealth benefits available on a permanent basis is another way to collaborate with in-network providers to make quality care more convenient, company officials said in the press release.

BlueCross investments have included clinical quality programs and innovation grants to help practices improve the member experience, including telehealth services and enhanced digital tools. In February, the insurer announced a joint venture with Sanitas, a Keralty company, to open eight primary care medical centers in Middle and West Tennessee.

State Senate Commerce and Labor Committee Chairman Paul Bailey (R-Sparta) said in an emailed press release of his own that the free market best determines how telehealth services play out.

“It is best that doctors, insurance providers, and patients define the value of these services, rather than rely on burdensome definitions mandated by the General Assembly,” Bailey said.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen that this indeed is the case, and are very encouraged that BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is making these services a permanent part of their coverage. I am optimistic that other insurance carriers will follow suit to provide Tennesseans with cost-effective telehealth services that are readily available and safe.”

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]





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