By: Max Crampton Thomas
2 min read June 2020 — Founded in 1853, Aetna is one of the nation’s leading diversified healthcare benefits companies, serving an estimated 46.7 million people. President of the Mid-Atlantic Territory John Lawrence spoke with Invest: about the company’s role in the battle against COVID-19.
How is Aetna assisting individuals, employers and providers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic?
As part of CVS Health, we have a presence in communities across the country and interact with one in three Americans every year. When facing a health crisis like COVID-19, we’re uniquely positioned to understand where the needs are and how to address them. To support our members, we’ve waived the cost-sharing for testing and in-patient treatment of COVID-19, offering no-cost telemedicine visits until June 4, waived charges for CVS Pharmacy home delivery of medications; and waived cost-sharing for all primary care visits for Aetna Medicare members.
Similarly, for plan sponsors, we’ve introduced an Employee Communications Toolkit that they can use to communicate the support available to their employees; offered a Special Enrollment Period Opportunity for insured plans; and developed a cost modeling calculator to help self-funded customers estimate the cost impacts of COVID-19. For providers, we’ve taken numerous actions to help reduce the administrative burden.
What role will Aetna play as the state looks to slowly reopen its economy?
Dramatically increasing the frequency and efficiency of testing to help slow the spread of the virus is critical for responsibly reopening the economy when experts tell us it’s safe. We operate large-scale COVID-19 rapid test sites in five states, which were opened in a matter of weeks through partnerships with the Department of Health and Human Services and governors in Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan and Rhode Island. Most of the parking lot sites can accommodate up to 1,000 tests per day using the Abbot ID NOW COVID-19 test which provides immediate results. Since May, we’ve been offering self-swab tests at select CVS Pharmacy locations in parking lots or at drive-thru windows.
What accommodations to your network of primary care doctors and specialists did you have to make to handle the influx of patients due to the COVID-19 outbreak?
For primary care doctors and specialists in our network the issue was twofold: staying in touch with their patients and doing so in a way that kept them and their patients safe. Telemedicine was the obvious answer, and we assisted our physicians in adopting or expanding their ability to offer telemedicine services. To further encourage the use of telemedicine, we waived co-payments for all virtual encounters. This included services for members in high-deductible plans, anticipating the guidance subsequently received from the Treasury Department. We also added additional payment codes and rates to reimburse our network doctors at the same rate for in-person and virtual visits.
Recognizing that some of our community of healthcare providers and clinicians are facing financial and administrative strain throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we took a series of additional actions to allow them to focus on delivering high-quality patient care. These actions include a commitment to prompt and accurate claim payments; helping hospitals prioritize COVID-19 patients; enabling greater capacity with healthcare providers; ensuring full provider reimbursements for waived member cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing and treatment; and providing behavioral health support.
What are your initiatives to address urgent health and safety needs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in communities across Philadelphia?
The less visible but escalating mental and emotional crisis is the “second curve” of the pandemic, and CVS Health is proactively addressing this urgent crisis through the launch of a mental well-being program. So many people are dealing with the physical effects and the mental trauma, stress, fear, anxiety and isolation as a result of the pandemic. On May 4, CVS Health launched a nationwide effort and committed $1 million in charitable support to help address those realities and we’re connecting people with no cost mental well-being resources and counseling services. In the first phase of the program, we’re particularly focused on healthcare workers, essential workers and seniors.
When facing a health crisis like COVID-19, we’re always working to understand where the needs are and how to best address them. We are continuing to reinforce the importance of social distancing and proper hand-washing measures especially as local communities return to business as usual. Through all of our COVID-related efforts, our goal is to help slow the spread of the virus and save lives.
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