Opening new doors to care with telehealth

Published October 27, 2020

Increasing coverage and access to at-home care. For the Health of America.

In the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of Americans were under orders to stay home and “flatten the curve.” As healthcare facilities filled with COVID-19 cases, those seeking in-person medical care for other reasons were at risk of contracting the virus.

To address these issues, Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) companies committed to expanding coverage and access to virtual care solutions. Some health plans are also offering additional telehealth resources to meet specific needs in their regions. 

For millennials, this shift could lead to a welcome, lasting change. In response to last year's Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Health of America Report® on millennial health, BCBS companies across the country hosted listening sessions with millennials and industry leaders. One key takeaway was that, while millennials do not want to lose access to in-person care, they do need the flexibility and convenience of telehealth. Below, learn more about how BCBS companies are expanding the virtual landscape of care. 

Removing barriers to telemental health

  • The need for mental and emotional well-being is now more apparent than ever. To help people coping with the emotional impact of isolation and crisis—regardless of insurance status—Florida Blue    is currently offering free telemental health for their members and the community at large.
  • Read more about BCBS initiatives to address mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Expanding benefits for self-insured employers

Training virtual doctors for COVID-19

  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City is ensuring all of their virtual care doctors have undergone coronavirus-specific training. This allows them to appropriately screen for COVID-19 symptoms and advise on needed follow-up care.

Offering a broader array of services

  • Independence Blue Cross expanded their covered telemedicine services to make it possible for more members to get the care they need from home. These expanded services include specialist visits, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, urgent care, nutritionist visits and behavioral health visits for members with autism spectrum disorder.
  • To help improve access to dental care when appointments are limited and removing one's mask still presents a risk, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBS MA) and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield (Anthem BCBS) gave dental members access to online dental care via telehealth platforms. Both BCBSMA and Anthem BCBS members received free virtual care through the fall of 2020. 

Supporting clinicians in offering telehealth

  • Telehealth isn’t just a new way of doing things for members. It can also be new for healthcare workers, who may have never practiced virtual care. To allay these uncertainties and meet the growing need for virtual visits, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is calling on available clinicians to offer telehealth services, making the transfer easy and paying them at parity to in-person visits.
  • Excellus BlueCross BlueShield both expanded access to telehealth services and physician offices how to use it in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. This move allowed many local providers in upstate New York to continue seeing patients and keep their doors open—virtually—as they face lost in-office revenue. In an effort to further support their provider partners, the company is also absorbing a $12 million reduction in Medicaid rates from the state this year rather than passing it on.

Broadening community access to care

  • Now more than ever, being uninsured can cause fear or anxiety. To help its community navigate these uncertainties, regardless of insurance status, Capital BlueCross offered discounted telehealth access to the general public in the wake of the pandemic—including a growing number of uninsured individuals.

Covering the cost of specialist phone triage

  • To support the Rhode Island community in getting access to high-quality care while following stay-at-home orders, BlueCross & BlueShield of Rhode Island is covering the cost of specialist phone triage. As the state’s largest health insurer, this move will help Rhode Islanders determine the level of care they may need without overburdening the health system at this precarious time.

Expanding permanent telehealth offerings

  • BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee (BCBS TN) is permanently expanding access to telehealth care for its members. This move means in-network visits with primary, specialty and behavioral health care services are now covered through and beyond the current pandemic. Following the dramatic expansion of these services during COVID-19, this decision makes BCBS TN the first major insurer to embrace telehealth for the long-term.

The latest

  • A new report dives deep into the impact of behavioral health conditions on millennials and how the COVID-19 pandemic may be further impacting this generation.


The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is a national federation of 36 independent, community-based and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide health care coverage for one in three Americans.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is an association of 35 independent, locally operated Blue Cross and/or Blue Shield companies.