By: Max Crampton-Thomas
2 min read April 2020 — Florida Blue is part of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, providing insurance products to individuals and businesses. Market President – Central Florida Tony Jenkins told Invest: about the company’s actions to tackle the COVID-19 crisis, assistance for policyholders and its experience holding virtual job fairs during the pandemic.
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?
Our network of providers has quickly adapted to offer more virtual care options to their patients during the COVID-19 health crisis. This allows individuals to chat with their doctor in the safety of their own home.
Florida Blue has taken several measures to increase virtual care options for our members. We added free access to Teladoc for our Medicare Advantage members, and we’ve waived the Teladoc copay for all Affordable Care Act members and most employer group plan members. Teladoc provides 24/7 bilingual virtual care via phone, video or mobile app.
We also are allowing our primary care doctors and specialists, including behavioral health providers, to treat patients virtually at their normal office visit rates during the crisis. We’re even allowing those with our Florida Blue Dental plans to seek emergency virtual care from a dentist at no cost.
Sanitas Medical Centers, which exclusively serves Florida Blue members, has designated select facilities as sites for patients with respiratory issues while other sites are treating other health concerns to reduce the chance of exposure of patients who need to seek care for non-respiratory issues. Sanitas is also providing free bilingual virtual care to its current patients via its mySanitas Chat website and mobile app.
Our GuideWell Emergency Doctors, which provide high-acuity urgent care, are also offering virtual visits via phone or video. They will even come out to your car and administer testing in their parking lot, so you do not have to enter the clinic.
What kind of out-of-pocket cost waivers have you implemented as a result of the coronavirus?
In addition to waiving copays for Teladoc sessions during the crisis, we waived cost-sharing through June 1 for any members who must undergo treatment for COVID-19 for our Affordable Care Act, Medicare Advantage and other individual plans (excluding Medicare Part D drug plans), as well as all fully insured employer group health plans. We also are waiving cost-sharing for medical testing for COVID-19.
Tell us about your initial investment of $2 million to address urgent health and safety needs in communities across Florida. What is the vision for this initiative?
Florida Blue made an initial investment of $2 million to address food security for seniors and children, support hourly workers, behavioral health needs and other crisis priorities in local communities. $500,000 was set aside specifically to support Central Florida communities.
With those funds, we’ve provided 300,000 meals to Second Harvest Food Bank, donated $75,000 to senior organizations across the region offering Meals on Wheels and other in-home support to seniors, and funded free childcare at the two area YMCAs for the children of healthcare workers, first responders and other essential frontline workers. We also worked with four Central Florida school districts to ensure children will continue to receive free meals while they are taking classes from home, in addition to supporting crisis relief funds for our local United Way chapters, which are aiding our neighbors in need.
How is the company dealing with the transition to remote work?
Our IT team did a phenomenal job ramping up quickly so we could transition more than 95 percent of our workforce across the nation to work remotely. We have only a few hundred individuals who are working on site in an office or medical clinic because they serve essential roles that cannot be performed elsewhere. We’ve taken extra precautions to address their health and safety.
We asked a lot of our employees with this transition and they showed unbelievable resilience as some had to adapt to working from home for the first time or sharing a makeshift workstation with their spouse or child.
Despite all the added obstacles, our team has truly stepped up and is delivering on our mission to help people and communities achieve better health. They continue to be innovative and adaptable to ensure we’re keeping our members at the center of everything we do.
You recently held a virtual job fair. What was that experience like?
We are currently hosting virtual job fairs for roughly 300 Member Care Specialist roles here in Orlando and across the state. These roles have a unique teacher-like schedule where employees get three months of paid leave with full benefits during the summer months. Training for these roles will get underway in mid-June.
We have transitioned all our recruiting and hiring to virtual meetings and interviews right now. We have several other positions open in several fields, including IT, analytics, sales, Medicare, training and more.
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