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New survey data from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association shows that 75 percent of Americans with behavioral health conditions are continuing therapy services during the COVID-19 pandemic because of the prevalence of telehealth and other digital health services. 

Further, while 42 percent of people reported delaying a health care appointment due to the pandemic, only 16 percent have delayed a mental health appointment. 

The usage of telemedicine has seen a 1.6 times increase since the summer of 2019, with more than half of that growth occurring since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Millennials and Gen Z age groups are using these services more than older age groups, reporting a 30 and 35 percent usage of telemedicine respectively, compared to only 15 percent of Baby Boomers. A millennial is someone who was born between 1981 and 1996. There are nearly 73 million millennials in the U.S. right now — the second largest generation among commercially insured Americans, as reflected in the Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Health of America Report® series, “The Health of Millennials,” released late last year. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic is a stressful time for everyone due to the fear and uncertainty that it brings, leading people to cope in different ways,” said Dr. Vincent Nelson, vice president of medical affairs for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. “It is vital that Americans continue to seek out the care they need from the telehealth options available to them to ensure that they can get and stay healthy.” 

To help address this, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association companies have made a system-wide commitment to ensure members can swiftly and smoothly get the right care in the right setting during the outbreak, including the expansion of telehealth coverage across the nation. 

BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina expanded benefits for telehealth services in March. 

“It is clear that our network providers are able to meet the needs of their patients in effective ways using technology. Enabling access to care is our main priority during this pandemic,” said Dr. Matthew Bartels, vice president and chief medical officer at BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina. “We have seen our members embrace telehealth options when seeking care for mental health conditions and, by adding more than 800 behavioral health providers to our telehealth network, we have significantly expanded our telehealth access to behavioral health services.”

Individual Blue Cross Blue Shield Association companies have also adjusted current behavioral health programs and introduced new initiatives to meet the unique needs of their local markets.

  • Creating a 24/7 bilingual helpline to provide emotional support to members in both English and Spanish
  • Providing telehealth services 
  • Improving variety of emotional wellness and virtual support apps and programs 
  • Hosting mental health webinars and creating regular, behavioral and emotional health support content, including editorials and videos from medical directors and certified medical experts

More information about what individual Blue Cross Blue Shield Association companies are doing to support their local communities during the COVID-19 pandemic can be found here.

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