By AFRO Staff

From the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield (CareFirst), a not-for-profit healthcare company serving individuals and employers in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Northern Virginia, has been focused on helping its neighbors who are struggling with both the economic and health impacts of the health crisis.

Over the course of the last few weeks it has become increasingly apparent that people are facing mounting economic pressure during this unique time, the likes of which are unprecedented for this generation. Many are struggling to make ends meet and having to make difficult decisions to close businesses, furlough or lay off workers, take sudden pay cuts – all amidst a global pandemic. To help alleviate the pressure and economic hardships people are facing, CareFirst has taken several steps to address the financial impact its customers are experiencing during this public health crisis.

CareFirst (Courtesy Image/Logo)

For the company’s fully insured members and accounts, CareFirst is committed to ensuring policies are not cancelled for nonpayment of premiums by offering payment deferrals between March and May. Customers can request a deferral of up to two months of premium with due amounts carried forward with no interest or penalty. The deferred premium would be satisfied over time through scheduled periodic payments to provide members and accounts with financial flexibility and ensure access to continuity of care. 

Individuals and employers are not the only ones impacted by economic hardship during the pandemic. Cases of COVID-19 continue to rise, contributing to financial pressures across the community, including healthcare provider organizations and individual practices. Declines in patient visits and physicians being required to cease elective procedures during this pandemic have combined to impact many independent practices. 

In response to this disruption, CareFirst introduced an accelerated payment program to a large number of provider organizations that are part of the company’s Patient-Centered Medical Home program, as well as independent practices in certain specialty areas. By providing accelerated payments, CareFirst says it hopes to meaningfully mitigate the financial impact local practitioners are facing so they can continue to provide high-quality care to patients now and into the future.

In addition to premium deferrals and accelerated payments, the healthcare company has identified other opportunities to remove barriers to care for its members. Early on in the pandemic, CareFirst was one of the first companies to announce it would remove cost sharing for in and out-of-network provider office visits for testing and treatment related to COVID-19. Since then, CareFirst has committed to covering all telemedicine costs for its members to receive services from their own doctors and specialists, and offering CareFirst Video Visit services at no cost to members. The company is also waiving early medication refill limits on 30-day prescription maintenance medications.

CareFirst is taking aggressive actions to support the community at large. The company recently announced a $2 million investment in nonprofit organizations working on the front lines to provide relief for communities’ health, social and economic needs that may arise during the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds will help close gaps in medical care access, minimize food insecurity and support the needs of at-risk populations and those disproportionately impacted during the crisis including seniors, individuals experiencing homelessness and the critically ill. 

As part of the company’s ongoing commitment to support the communities it serves, CareFirst has partnered with Aramark and Food Rescue US in the District of Columbia to prepare and package hundreds of boxed meals for organizations in the National Capital Area impacted by COVID-19. Additionally, the program helps Aramark staff members remain employed. Aramark employees normally staff CareFirst’s cafeterias, but with over 95% of the company’s workforce practicing social distancing and working from home, the cafeterias are not getting much foot traffic.

CareFirst says they will continue to remain focused on member needs and supporting employers and providers who help maintain members’ health. The company said it will continue to put people first and maintain its not-for-profit mission to provide the stability that its constituents expect throughout this crisis and long after.