Blue Cross and Blue Shield leaders ramp up COVID-19 testing

Published April 17, 2020

This article highlights efforts across America to expand access to COVID-19 testing sites to help identify those at risk and to better understand and slow the spread of the coronavirus.

June 11, 2020 update: Blue Shield of California CEO Paul Markovich provides an update on COVID-19 testing in California which has expanded to 100 sites and 60,000 tests per day.  Markovich is co-chair of a statewide task force that continues to meet ambitious benchmarks for expanding COVD-19 testing and improving access for at-risk populations and communities of color that are disproportionately impacted by the virus. In this podcast, listen to Markovich discuss the critical work to expand testing for millions of Americans. 

April 27, 2020 update: An additional 86 testing sites will be operational in California in early May. This will bring the state's total existing network of COVID-19 test sites to nearly 350. The goal is to increase testing to 25,000 people each day and to increase access to testing in rural and urban communities.

The push is underway to aggressively expand COVID-19 testing sites across America. From coast to coast, Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies are leading efforts to increase access to outpatient testing and make it easier to find testing locations.

Drive-through testing

In quick succession, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield (Anthem BCBS) announced in early April, the opening of two high-volume, drive-through testing sites in New Hampshire and Maine. In both cases, Anthem BCBS partnered with ConvenientMD, providing them with financial support to enable COVID-19 testing on a much larger scale. The push to provide additional testing services is in response to growing demand and the need to identify COVID-19-positive patients to slow the spread of the virus across the country. One of the drive-through testing sites utilizes the empty Anthem BCBS parking lot in South Portland, while employees are working remotely to follow stay-at-home safety guidelines.

How the drive-through process works

  • Patients are first evaluated at home by a ConvenientMD provider using telehealth capabilities
  • Providers determine appropriateness of testing, referring eligible patients to a high-volume test site
  • Testing sites are open to anyone in New Hampshire and Maine respectively

The partnership is also in coordination with the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommendations to help you decide if you need to be tested.

“Increasing patient access to testing and identifying those patients who are COVID-19 positive will ultimately help to prevent the spread of this virus," said Lisa Guertin, president of Anthem BCBS in New Hampshire.

“From expanding access to telehealth to increasing access to testing, we will continue to support efforts to help Mainers access the care they need during this crisis,” said Denise McDonough, president of Anthem BCBS in Maine.

Investment in pop-up COVID-19 testing

On the West Coast, Blue Shield of California has committed $500,000 in contributions to the Oakland COVID-19 Relief Fund. Of those funds, $300,000 will be used to set up pop-up testing sites. The primary testing site, in the Bay Area, is aimed at supporting first responders and physicians serving on the front lines of the health crisis. Additional sites will follow throughout April.

Task force to ramp up testing in California

Pop-up testing sites come at the same time California's governor has established a COVID-19 task force. The goal of the task force is to achieve a five-fold increase of daily testing by the end of April 2020. To support this goal, new testing sites will be established throughout the state so every Californian can reach a testing site within one hour.

Blue Shield of California is taking a leadership role with President and CEO Paul Markovich co-chairing the task force with California Department of Public Health Assistant Director Charity Dean, M.D., M.P.H. “This is a critically important project to help keep Californians safe and healthy,” said Markovich. “We need to test extensively and effectively to contain this virus, and we need to speed up the turnaround times so we know the full scope of the problem and how to control the risks.”

Find a testing site near you

As the number of testing sites expand, Anthem BCBS has created an online tool to help Americans across the country find a testing site. The COVID-19 test facility finder directs users to local testing locations by simply entering your state and county.

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Blue Shield of California are independent licensees of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, an association of independent, locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies. ConvenientMD is a separate company providing urgent care and walk-in medical services.