Health services organization Cigna has announced expanded telehealth services for millions of Americans enrolled in Cigna administered medical and behavioral health plans for 2017.
In 2017, Cigna said that it will significantly expand its telehealth coverage by adding AMWell (by telemedicine company American Well) to its existing offering of MDLive, also a telehealth provider, both as a standard telehealth benefit for most of Cigna’s U.S. employer-sponsored group health plans, as well as many of its individual health plans on and off public marketplace exchanges. Both services operate national networks of board-certified doctors that are able to treat minor medical conditions such as allergies, cold and flu and sinusitis.
What’s more, in January, Cigna will also add telehealth video consultations for its health plan customers by using the company’s contracted behavioral health professionals. Customers who have mental health/substance abuse benefits with Cigna will have the option for individual therapy or medication management through video-based services. There is no additional cost for these behavioral services to customers or their employers, with the same cost share applying to video-based services as face-to-face office visits, Cigna said in its announcement.
“Since Cigna began offering telehealth to customers 10 years ago, we’ve learned a few things about how we can help people benefit from their plans in the ways that matter most: increased access and convenience, choice, care quality and affordability,” Cigna telehealth lead, Robert Wijnhoven, said in a statement. “We also know about the difficulty some Americans have accessing a behavioral health professional, especially in rural areas. Enabling access to our behavioral health care professional networks via telehealth provides an innovative solution to this accessibility challenge.”
According to Wijnhoven, at a time when many customers are responsible for a larger percent of their medical spend, telehealth offers on demand access to health care professionals at a fraction of the cost of conventional points of service such as retail clinics, urgent care and emergency room visits. “Cost is especially important for customers on the public exchanges, which is why we are extending this benefit beyond our employer-sponsored plans,” Wijnhoven said. “As important however, is quality and continuity of care.