By Ceci Connolly and Connie Hwang, M.D., MPH
As the COVID-19 public health crisis pressured the nation’s health care infrastructure, patients turned swiftly to telehealth for safe, convenient access to care. To keep pace with consumer demand and maintain the ability for providers to reach patients safely, many health insurers adapted their reimbursement models. Several nonprofit community health plans that are members of the Alliance of Community Health Plans (ACHP) quickly pivoted in the face of crisis to expand telehealth-accessible benefits, waive cost sharing and premiums, and in some cases launch new technology platforms to coordinate coverage and care for millions of consumers in communities across the nation.
As telehealth’s popularity skyrocketed among individuals and providers alike, three ACHP member health plans — Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Kaiser Permanente, and Priority Health — accelerated the development of telehealth-first insurance products in time for the 2021 open enrollment season. Premiums for Harvard Pilgrim’s SimplyVirtual plan, Kaiser Permanente’s Virtual Forward plan, and Priority Health’s MyPriority Telehealth PCP plan cost up to 20% less than traditional products in the communities they serve.