BLOG — Community Health Plans Offer No-Cost Benefits to Consumers During Pandemic

ACHP’s nonprofit health plans offered additional benefits at no cost to consumers to combat the adverse impacts of COVID-19.

by Michael Bagel

COVID-19 continues to strain the health care infrastructure of our nation and to exacerbate existing inequalities in health care delivery and outcomes. To alleviate some of the burden of the pandemic, many of ACHP’s nonprofit, community-based health plans led by example and offered a variety of additional benefits at no cost. Communities across the country were aided with benefits addressing social needs and extending much needed resources to improve access to care, ranging from robust telehealth opportunities to meal delivery services.

Mobile Medicine Takes the Front Stage

It is no secret that the utilization of telehealth and mobile services dramatically increased in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, becoming a lifeline for providers, patients and health plans. And it’s no secret that ACHP members in particular have risen to the technological challenge.

Geisinger Health Plan launched a COVID-19 home monitoring program which allows patients to manage and report symptoms, including temperature and oxygen levels, as well as access video appointments with providers through a  free mobile app. The mobile app also includes educational content as a way of actively engaging patients in their care. This innovative use of telemedicine allows patients to safely and conveniently access care from the privacy of their homes.

Kaiser Permanente offers meditation app Calm to its 12.4 million members free of charge. Priority Health provides all members free access to Livongo’s myStrength mental health and wellness app. Innovative access to mobile apps demonstrate ACHP members’ commitment to ensuring patients have access to mental health care, helping manage heightened anxiety and stress amid a pandemic.

In light of the pandemic, UPMC offers the RxWell mobile app at no cost to members. This application is designed to help members with stress, anxiety or depression. CDPHP is also partnering with Valera Health telemedicine services to connect members with providers specializing in a broad range of therapeutic treatments. The availability of these mobile applications expanded access to those hesitant or physically unable to receive mental health care prior to the pandemic who are now easily able to do so from home.

Addressing the Social Determinants of Health

Recognizing the pandemic’s amplification of health care disparities, ACHP plans took swift action to address social needs, including access to healthy food, transportation and stable housing.

Under COVID-19 flexibilities extended by CMS, approximately 21,000 Fallon Medicare Plus consumers are now automatically eligible to receive nutritious food and health items delivered to their homes. Consumers can also receive COVID-19 care kits which include coronavirus information and resources to help members stay safe and monitor their health. Fallon sends free strength building kits to support members’ physical and mental health during this time of uncertainty and is partnering with local organizations to deliver prepared meals to members’ homes.

Dean Health Plan partnered with a local restaurant group and software company to offer free weekly meals to seniors. These weekly meals are designed to provide vulnerable seniors a nutritious benefit while also offering local restaurants an opportunity to find work during the height of the pandemic.

On the ground in communities across the country, ACHP plans are taking steps to make certain their members continue to receive high quality care and coverage throughout this economically and socially devastating pandemic. These benefits offered at no cost represent the continued commitment of ACHP plans to improve outcomes in the health care system and put patients at the center of health care delivery. ACHP members continue to lead by example and put their communities and consumers first.