The Blue Cross Blue Shield Service Benefit Plan, otherwise known as the Federal Employee Program, has chosen Purchase, New York-based Teladoc to provide services for the 2018 benefit year. Through this selection, the approximately 5.3 million federal employees, retirees and family members that FEP covers will have access to medical and mental health services provided via Teladoc. “FEP members and their families can count on Teladoc to bring better convenience, quality and healthcare access, when and where they need it,” Teladoc Chief Revenue Officer Pete Nieves said in a news release. “The Teladoc organization is committed to a successful, long-term partnership and to bringing a new level of healthcare service that FEP members expect.”
William Breskin, senior vice president of government programs at the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, expressed a similar sentiment.
“We are excited to offer telehealth to our members in next year’s offerings,” he said in a statement. “We are always working to provide federal workers and their families with the most innovative solutions to meet their health needs. By providing a telehealth platform for our members, they will be able to get access to quality care anywhere and at any time.”
This decision from BCBS comes at a time when telehealth seems to be becoming a staple of employee benefit packages.
A recent survey from the National Business Group on Health serves as evidence. It was conducted among 148 employers across various industries in May and June 2017. Combined, the respondents provide coverage to over 15 million employees and their dependents.
Ninety-six percent of employers said they plan to make telehealth services available as an employee benefit next year. Fifty-six percent will offer telebehavioral health services in 2018.
The increase in these offerings could point toward something more than a desire to make access easier for employees. Companies may also see telehealth as a way to decrease healthcare benefit costs.
Indeed, a 2014 analysis by Willis Towers Watson found telemedicine could save employers $6 billion.
That exact question has prompted some to ask whether telehealth visits should be given away for free. While a $40 visit diagnosing and treating a patient could replace a $1,200 emergency room visit for routine care, others argue that no-cost telemedicine visits could result in overuse by patients.