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Take Care of Your Mental Health During COVID-19

A Message from Our Chief Medical Officer: In the Face of COVID-19, We’re Standing by You and Our Members, Your Patients

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has tested our health care delivery system, economy and culture in ways that many of us did not imagine, just a few months ago. Both the heroism and human frailty of health care providers during this pandemic has been undeniable. The tension between personal and family safety while delivering life preserving care has been prominent in our minds. And despite the modern advances of health care, we are reminded of the critical importance of public health and the interwoven nature of our health as one community.

In between the chasms in our health care system, each of you have helped bridge the gap – overcoming fears, innovating in the face of equipment shortages, enduring back-to-back clinical shifts, and comforting patients and families during a time of uncertainty. On behalf of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL), thank you for your service to our community.

As we continue to monitor and make changes in response to the rapidly evolving pandemic, I wanted to take a moment to personally let you know how BCBSIL is holding true to our purpose – to do everything in our power to stand with our members in sickness and in health. We took several early actions to complement your efforts to prepare for the surge of COVID-19 patients:

  • Relaxed some benefit preauthorization requirements in support of the rapidly evolving protocols for COVID-19
  • Rapidly expanded access to telemedicine services to help promote continuity of care for members and mitigate transmission of COVID-19 for some clinical interactions
  • Listened to the concerns of hospital providers and worked to facilitate patient transfers to post-acute settings, increasing inpatient bed capacity, and relaxed related prior authorization requirements
  • Extended time frames for peer to peers to 90 days and allowed participation of physician advisors
  • Extended existing prior authorizations for elective procedures to the end of the year or member benefit period (whichever is sooner), eliminating the need to resubmit the request
  • Doubled the availability of care management team members available on the weekends to support providers and members
  • Extended our weekday hours and accelerated proactive outreach to certain members at greatest risk for COVID-19 infection to address their social needs

We’re also contributing to collaborative community grant funds to help local non-profits in their efforts to further support providers and members with essential needs.

Now more than ever, communication is critical. With this Special Edition of our Blue Review, we wanted to pull together some recent COVID-19-related communications, all in one place for your convenience. There’s also a COVID-19 Preparedness page on our Provider website, if you’d like a quick overview of the latest updates. As a reminder, I encourage you to watch the News and Updates for additional announcements, which will be posted as soon as more information becomes available.

Derek J. Robinson, M.D., MBA, FACEP, CHCQM
Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, BCBSIL

The above material is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician or other health care provider. Physicians and other health care providers are encouraged to use their own medical judgment based upon all available information and the condition of the patient in determining the appropriate course of treatment. The fact that a service or treatment is described in this material is not a guarantee that the service or treatment is a covered benefit and members should refer to their certificate of coverage for more details, including benefits, limitations and exclusions. Regardless of benefits, the final decision about any service or treatment is between the member and their health care provider.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois Further Expands Telehealth to All In-Network Providers

BCBSIL launched an expanded telehealth program on March 11, 2020, in quick response to the COVID-19 crisis in order to provide greater access and remove potential barriers to medical services for our members during this time. On March 19, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker issued an Executive Order expanding telehealth services across the state as part of the continued effort to mitigate the COVID-19 crisis. In collaboration with these state efforts, BCBSIL has expanded in-network telehealth benefits for all state-regulated, fully-insured members for the duration of the Gubernatorial Disaster Proclamation.

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Credentialing Process Simplified for COVID-19

We are temporarily updating our credentialing policy and processes in response to the COVID-19 emergency. This complies with emergency state and federal regulations and is effective April 3, 2020. The temporary modifications are only in place during the COVID-19 emergency and subject to change based upon state and federal action. Otherwise, standard credentialing and processes will apply.

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Making It Easier to Access CT Chest Scans

BCBSIL is temporarily simplifying access to chest computed tomography (CT). As of March 2, 2020, providers that request prior authorization through eviCore healthcare (eviCore) for chest CT scans with a COVID-19 diagnosis will receive an approval without the need for clinical documentation. We are also temporarily waiving the need for members to notify us when they are scheduled to have a chest CT scan.

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BCBSIL Waives Member Cost-Sharing for COVID-19 Treatment

BCBSIL is waiving member cost-sharing, including deductibles, copayments and coinsurance related to treatment for COVID-19. The waiver applies to costs associated with COVID-19 treatment at in-network facilities and treatment for out-of-network emergencies. The new policy applies to all fully-insured PPO, Blue Choice PPOSM and HMO members, as well as Blue Cross Community Health PlansSM (BCCHPSM), Blue Cross Community MMAI (Medicare-Medicaid Plan)SM and Medicare Advantage members. We will work with self-funded employer groups that decide to offer the same waivers.

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BCBSIL is Making It Easier to Transfer Members to Post-Acute Care

We’re making it easier to transfer our members from acute-care facilities to in-network, medically necessary alternative post-acute facilities through June 15, 2020 (previously April 30, 2020). We will no longer require a post-acute care facility to wait for prior authorization to transfer our members from an inpatient hospital to an in-network medically appropriate, post-acute site of care such as long-term acute care hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, rehabilitation facilities and in-patient hospice. The receiving facility must call and inform us of the transfer by the next business day. This will help promote availability of acute care capacity for COVID-19 patients during this Public Health Emergency. It also allows our members to continue to access medically necessary care. If the transfer is for a behavioral health facility, it will require prior authorization.

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Extending Prior Authorization on Previously-Approved Elective Surgeries, Procedures and Therapies

We’re temporarily extending approvals on services with existing prior authorizations until Dec. 31, 2020. This applies to services that were originally approved or scheduled between Jan. 1, 2020, and April 1, 2020. The extension is for certain non-emergent, elective surgeries, procedures, therapies and home visits. A member may reschedule an approved procedure to a later date in 2020 without requiring a new prior authorization. This applies only to current members for a benefit that is covered under their plan at the time services are rendered.

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Pharmacy Changes During COVID-19 Pandemic

For members who have BCBSIL pharmacy benefits administered through Prime Therapeutics, BCBSIL will allow members to receive an early fill of their medication for the same quantity as the last prescription filled. All pharmacy safety measures, prior authorization reviews, as well as prescribing and dispensing laws, will remain.

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Alert: COVID-19 Updates for BCCHP Providers

BCBSIL recently expanded services to help provide greater access and remove potential barriers to medical services for our Blue Cross Community Health Plans (BCCHP) members, following guidance from the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) during this COVID-19 crisis. It’s important to be aware of telehealth, COVID-19 testing, pharmacy and, benefit preauthorization details that are specific to our BCCHP members.

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Minority Health Month Spotlights Importance of Physical Activity for Overall Wellbeing

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMH), April is National Minority Health Month. The 2020 theme is Active & Healthy. However, during this unprecedented time of social distancing and self-isolation efforts related to 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), staying active may be harder – and more important – than ever.

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Additional Resources for Providers

Our response to COVID-19 continues to evolve as we work to best serve our members, customers and providers. Please refer our Provider website for more information and helpful resources, such as answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about COVID-19 we’re hearing from the provider community.

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Stay informed!

Watch the News and Updates on our Provider website for important announcements.

Update Your Information

Do you need to update your location, phone number, email or other important details on file with BCBSIL? Use our online forms to request an information change.

Provider Training

For dates, times and online registration, visit the Webinars and Workshops page.


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