Aetna Medicare waives out-of-pocket costs for telehealth services

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Aetna, a CVS Health company, will waive out-of-pocket costs for in-network primary care and specialist telehealth visits for all Individual and Group Medicare Advantage plan members through September 30, 2020.

“While seniors are encouraged to stay home to limit their exposure to COVID-19, that doesn’t mean they have to forego medical care during the pandemic,” said Christopher Ciano, President of Aetna Medicare. “It’s important our Medicare members continue getting essential preventive and primary care to keep small problems from becoming big ones. To help with this, Aetna Medicare is continuing to take steps to remove barriers to care and make care more affordable for our members.”

This action is in addition to the cost-share waivers we announced on May 13:

  • Waiving member out-of-pocket costs for all in-network primary care visits, whether done in-office or via telehealth, for any reason, for all Medicare Advantage plan members through September 30, 2020.

  • Extending all member cost-sharing waivers for in-network telehealth visits for outpatient behavioral and mental health counseling services for all Medicare Advantage plan members through September 30, 2020.

We are closely monitoring the progress of the pandemic, federal and state policies and the associated impact on our members, customers and providers. We’ll continue to adjust our policies, as appropriate, to ensure access to care.

About CVS Health

CVS Health employees are united around a common goal of becoming the most consumer-centric health company. We’re evolving based on changing consumer needs and meeting people where they are, whether that’s in the community at one of our nearly 10,000 local touchpoints, in the home, or in the palm of their hand. Our newest offerings — from HealthHUB® locations that are redefining what a pharmacy can be, to innovative programs that help manage chronic conditions — are designed to create a higher-quality, simpler and more affordable experience. Learn more about how we’re transforming health at www.cvshealth.com.

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DuPage Medical Group and Aetna team up to expand value-based Medicare Advantage coverage in Chicagoland

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CHICAGO, IL. — Aetna, a CVS Health Company (NYSE: CVS), announced today an agreement to provide members enrolled in Aetna Medicare Advantage plans access to DuPage Medical Group (DMG) providers in DuPage, Kane and Will counties in Illinois.

Under the agreement, 50,000 Aetna Medicare Advantage members now have access to more than 100 DMG locations, along with approximately 250 primary care and 500 specialty care physicians in the Chicagoland area.

“Aetna is committed to improving access to care for our members. Through our collaboration with DuPage Medical Group, one of the largest independent provider groups in the Upper Midwest, thousands of Aetna Medicare Advantage plan members now have access to vital health services from physicians who will help Medicare beneficiaries on their path to better health,” said Gregg Kimmer, Chief Medicare Officer and general manager for Aetna Great Lakes Individual Medicare Advantage plans.

As a proactive leader in providing high value compassionate care to patients, DMG offers a range of outpatient services including diagnostic imaging, colonoscopies, cardiac, orthopedic and additional surgical procedures in both office and ambulatory surgical center settings.

About Aetna

Aetna, a CVS Health business, serves an estimated 34 million people with information and resources to help them make better informed decisions about their health care. Aetna offers a broad range of traditional, voluntary and consumer-directed health insurance products and related services, including medical, pharmacy, dental and behavioral health plans, and medical management capabilities, Medicaid health care management services, workers' compensation administrative services and health information technology products and services. Aetna's customers include employer groups, individuals, college students, part-time and hourly workers, health plans, health care providers, governmental units, government-sponsored plans, labor groups and expatriates. For more information, visit www.aetna.com and explore how Aetna is helping to build a healthier world.

Aetna Medicare is a HMO, PPO plan with a Medicare contract. Our SNPs also have contracts with State Medicaid programs. Enrollment in our plans depends on contract renewal. Plan features and availability may vary by service area. Participating physicians, hospitals and other health care providers are independent contractors and are neither agents nor employees of Aetna. The availability of any particular provider cannot be guaranteed, and provider network composition is subject to change. The provider network may change at any time. You will receive notice when necessary. Other physicians/providers are available in our network.

About DuPage Medical Group

DuPage Medical Group (DMG) is the largest independent, multi-specialty physician group in Illinois with more than 750 primary care and specialty care physicians in over 100 suburban Chicago locations. For 20 years, DMG has focused on making healthcare better for its patients and communities by offering high quality, compassionate healthcare. As a physician-led organization, DMG’s physicians work together – utilizing leading-edge technology and innovative treatment options – to ensure that each patient receives accessible and efficient healthcare. For more information, visit www.dupagemedicalgroup.com.

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Shannon Dillon
DillonS@aetna.com
832-344-8245

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Most adults are experiencing more stress than same time last year, new report shows

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New CVS Health national survey reveals negative effects of COVID-19 on mental well-being, particularly for frontline health care workers

According to new data, COVID-19 is exacerbating risks to mental health — especially among health care workers — and hindering accessibility to find care. More Americans are considering emerging services to improve access, such as telemedicine.

In a recent nationwide survey conducted by CVS Health and Morning Consult, two thirds of adults indicated they are experiencing more stress compared to this time last year, and more than 60 percent feared the impact of COVID-19 on their health. Stress has increased particularly among health care workers (75%) who are on the frontlines battling the pandemic.

Frontline health care workers are also reporting higher levels of harmful behaviors as a result of COVID-19. Approximately half of health care workers noted that COVID-19 has reduced their sleep schedules (54%), worsened their diet (51%) and had an overall negative impact on the state of their mental health (48%). A quarter also reported an increased desire to drink alcohol or use illicit substances.

“Rising stress and fear clearly demonstrate the existence of a ‘second curve,’ which is the less visible but escalating mental health crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Cara McNulty, DPA, President, Aetna Behavioral Health. “We need to continue to move fast to ensure we are connecting those on the front lines of the pandemic with mental well-being resources.”

To help flatten this second curve, CVS Health has increased access to several no-cost mental health resources through targeted financial support, such as outpatient counseling for hospital-based employees in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut via Give an Hour.

CVS Health has also made Aetna's Resources for Living (RFL) program available to everyone, which includes real-time phone support to help callers cope with the emotional impact of the pandemic (accessible by calling 1-833-327-AETNA or 1-833-327-2386).

According to the survey, nearly one-in-three adults are very likely to use mental and emotional health care services if they are provided by their health insurance provider, and more than half would find them useful. Additionally, half of respondents are familiar with telemedicine services. Approximately 50 percent of adults are willing to try speaking to a personal licensed therapist via video or phone, and 48% would communicate via text messaging or a mobile application.

Surveyed adults also report a lack of familiarity with employee-assistance programs (EAPs), which typically offer in-the-moment counseling services over the phone, resources to relieve stress, wellness programs and more. Only eight percent of respondents have utilized one in the past, and nearly 40 percent have never heard of an EAP.

Morning Consult poll conducted from April 28 to May 3, 2020 among a national sample of 2,200 adults and 500 frontline health care workers.

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Aetna Better Health announces Medicaid contract award in West Virginia

Aetna Better Health announces Medicaid contract award in West Virginia
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CHARLESTON, West Virginia — Aetna Better Health of West Virginia, a CVS Health company (NYSE: CVS), today announced that the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) has awarded the company a statewide Medicaid contract through the Mountain Health Trust managed care program. The Mountain Health Trust program serves most Medicaid eligible groups, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), pregnant women, Children with Special Health Care Needs (CSHCN), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the West Virginia Health Bridge Medicaid expansion population, and beginning in early 2021, the West Virginia Children's Health Insurance Program (WVCHIP).

Aetna Better Health has been committed to providing quality care to Medicaid beneficiaries in West Virginia for more than 23 years. Last November the company was awarded the sole contract for the state's new Mountain Health Promise program. Through this program, Aetna Better Health provides physical and behavioral health managed care services on a statewide basis to more than 20,000 children and youth in the foster care system and individuals receiving adoption assistance.

"Providing high-quality health care to our members is critical to our mission. As a company with a long history of caring for West Virginians, we are proud to serve Medicaid beneficiaries in all 55 counties across the state," said Todd White, CEO, Aetna Better Health of West Virginia. "We remain committed to our strong partnerships with the state, our providers, and community-based organizations to deliver on our goal of providing better health outcomes to our valued members."

Aetna Better Health of West Virginia currently serves 160,000 members across the state through the Mountain Health Trust and Mountain Health Promise managed care programs. The new Mountain Health Trust contract term begins July 1, 2020 and runs through June 30, 2021.

About Aetna Medicaid

Aetna Medicaid Administrators LLC (Aetna Medicaid), a CVS Health business, has over 30 years of experience managing the care of the most medically vulnerable, using innovative approaches and a local presence in each market to achieve both successful health care results and effective cost outcomes. Aetna Medicaid has particular expertise serving high-need Medicaid members, including those who are dually eligible for Medicaid and Medicare. Currently, Aetna Medicaid owns and/or administers Medicaid managed health care plans under the names of Aetna Better Health and other affiliate names. Together, these plans serve approximately 2.4 million people in 16 states, including Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Texas. For more information, see www.aetnabetterhealth.com.

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Leigh Woodward
860-900-6058
woodwardl1@aetna.com

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Fighting COVID-19 with your wearable

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Attain by Aetna℠

Our partnership with Scripps Research uses data from wearable devices to combat viral illnesses

The use of wearable technology has more than tripled in the last four years.https://newsroom.accenture.com/news/accenture-study-finds-growing-demand-for-digital-health-services-revolutionizing-delivery-models-patients-doctors-machines.htm Now scientists are hoping to harness information from this technology to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Our app, Attain by Aetna℠ developed for eligible Aetna members and launched last year in collaboration with Apple, provides everyday health tips and challenges on basic topics like sleep, nutrition, mindfulness, stress and activity. And with the user's consent, the app shares encrypted sensor data collected by your Apple watch with Aetna.

That shared data lets CVS Health provide messages to those members at key moments that can help them improve their health — for example, adhering to their medication routine, or providing information about affordable sites of care nearby that might be more appropriate than an emergency room.

“Over 92% of participants claim that Attain is helping them get healthier, and that is leading to early indications of better health outcomes and lower medical costs for the members.” — Ben Wanamaker, VP of Analytic Products, CVS Health
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A way to contribute to the fight against COVID-19

Now, Attain is joining a wider circle of participants by working with Scripps Research on DETECT (Digital Engagement and Tracking for early Control and Treatment) a study built off the platform Scripps Research uses for often cited 2020 flu research.

“Researchers will work with numerous partners in the digital health industry, including Fitbit, to understand if tracking individualized changes in heart rate, activity and sleep can provide an early indication of viral infections,” explains Jennifer Radin, PhD, an epidemiologist at Scripps Research.

We will be notifying current users of Attain of the opportunity to take part via in-app notifications but anyone who wears an Apple watch, Fitbit, Garmin or other wearable device can participate. Interested employees can learn how to take part in the study by visiting the DETECT study website reading an overview of the study and downloading the MyDataHelps™ mobile app.

By consenting to donate personal data, participants can not only take control of their own health, but also help public officials potentially prevent the outbreak of viral respiratory illness within their communities.

“Partnering with a credible, rigorous research institute like Scripps Research is one modest way to help us better understand and track this pandemic and maybe be better prepared for future ones,” adds Ben.

Download Attain by Aetna from the Apple® App Store today and start hitting your goals, earning rewards and forging your path to better health.You must be an Aetna® commercial medical member. You need to be at least 18. You need an iPhone®. Other eligibility and participation requirements, including certain state restrictions and exclusions, may apply.

Visit the Attain by Aetna website for more information and details.

Attain by Aetna℠
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CVS Health extends cost-sharing waivers and announces new action to support Aetna members during the COVID-19 pandemic

CVS Health extends cost-sharing waivers and announces new action to support Aetna members during the COVID-19 pandemic
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Now covering out-of-pocket costs for primary care services for Medicare Advantage members

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — CVS Health (NYSE: CVS) today announced it is extending a range of cost-sharing waivers and benefits to help Aetna members access the care they need during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We recognize the unique role we can play in addressing the pandemic and protecting people's health,” said Karen S. Lynch, Executive Vice President, CVS Health and President, Aetna Business Unit. “We remain committed to helping our members get the care they need without the added worry of wondering how they will pay for it. We’ll continue to invest in efforts that support our members’ physical and mental wellbeing, letting them know they are not alone during this crisis.”

For members of Aetna-insured Commercial, Medicare Advantage and applicable Medicaid plans, the company is extending all member cost-sharing and co-pay waivers for inpatient admissions for treatment of COVID-19 or health complications associated with COVID-19. Additionally, given the escalating mental health crisis resulting from or amplified by the pandemic, Aetna is extending all member cost-sharing waivers for in-network telemedicine visits for outpatient behavioral and mental health counseling services. These actions, which were scheduled to expire on June 1, 2020, have been extended through September 30, 2020. Aetna will continue working with self-funded plan sponsors to provide options. 

The company is also taking additional steps to eliminate out-of-pocket costs for primary care services for Medicare Advantage members. Effective from today through September 30, 2020, Aetna is waiving member out-of-pocket costs for all in-network primary care visits, whether done in-office and via telehealth, for any reason, and encourages members to continue seeking essential preventive and primary care during the pandemic.

In addition to supporting members’ access to needed care, Aetna continues to focus on protecting patient access to medication. It has extended the following actions, which were scheduled to expire on May 15, 2020, through September 30, 2020:

  • Waiving early refill limits on 30-day prescription maintenance medications for all members with pharmacy benefits administered through CVS Caremark.

  • Continuing to encourage all members of Commercial, Medicare and Medicaid plans to take advantage of plan benefits for 90-day maintenance medication prescriptions.

Aetna continues to work closely with customers to offer flexible plan designs, including dental, and solutions to help reduce the financial burden many are facing today.

These announcements build on CVS Health’s overall efforts to help members, customers, providers and communities navigate through this public health emergency. More information on steps CVS Health has taken to address the COVID-19 pandemic is available at the company's frequently updated COVID-19 resource center.

About CVS Health

CVS Health employees are united around a common goal of becoming the most consumer-centric health company in the world. We're evolving based on changing consumer needs and meeting people where they are, whether that's in the community at one of our nearly 10,000 local touchpoints, in the home, or in the palm of their hand. Our newest offerings – from HealthHUB® locations that are redefining what a pharmacy can be, to innovative programs that help manage chronic conditions – are designed to create a higher-quality, simpler and more affordable experience. Learn more about how we're transforming health at https://www.cvshealth.com.

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Aetna Better Health announces Medicaid STAR Kids contract award in Texas

Aetna Better Health announces Medicaid STAR Kids contract award in Texas
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DALLAS — Aetna Better Health of Texas, a CVS Health company (NYSE: CVS), today announced the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) awarded the company a STAR Kids Medicaid managed care contract in the seven-county Dallas service area. With this new award, Aetna Better Health will now serve the state's STAR Kids beneficiaries across the entire Dallas Ft. Worth Metroplex. Aetna Better Health's entry into the Dallas service area complements its ongoing, successful STAR Kids operations in the neighboring six-county Tarrant (Ft. Worth) service area, where it has served STAR Kids beneficiaries since 2016. More broadly, Aetna Better Health of Texas has covered Medicaid beneficiaries in the state since 2006, beginning with the state's separate STAR and CHIP programs in the Bexar and Tarrant service areas, which comprise a total of 14 counties across the state.

"Through our longstanding relationships with the State of Texas, our provider partners and community-based organizations, Aetna Better Health has provided Medicaid beneficiaries in Texas with access to quality care for more than 14 years," said Cheryl Harding, CEO, Aetna Better Health of Texas. "By expanding our footprint into the Dallas service area, we have an opportunity to help an additional 7,500 children and young adults in the STAR Kids program achieve better health outcomes."

STAR Kids is a Texas Medicaid managed care program that serves children and young adults (ages 20 and younger) who have disabilities. The program provides benefits such as prescription drugs, hospital care, primary and specialty care, preventive care, personal-care services, private-duty nursing, and durable medical equipment and supplies. Children and young adults who receive additional services through the Medically Dependent Children Program (MDCP) waiver receive those MDCP services through the STAR Kids program.

Aetna Better Health of Texas currently serves 85,000 members across the state through the STAR, CHIP, and STAR Kids Medicaid programs. The STAR Kids expansion into the Dallas service area will bring an additional 7,500 enrollees to Aetna Better Health of Texas. The Dallas service-area STAR Kids contract is expected to become operational September 1, 2020 and runs through at least August 31, 2022.

About Aetna Medicaid

Aetna Medicaid Administrators LLC (Aetna Medicaid), a CVS Health business, has over 30 years of experience managing the care of the most medically vulnerable, using innovative approaches and a local presence in each market to achieve both successful health care results and effective cost outcomes. Aetna Medicaid has particular expertise serving high-need Medicaid members, including those who are dually eligible for Medicaid and Medicare. Currently, Aetna Medicaid owns and/or administers Medicaid managed health care plans under the names of Aetna Better Health and other affiliate names. Together, these plans serve approximately 2.4 million people in 16 states, including Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Texas. For more information, see www.aetnabetterhealth.com.

Media contact

Leigh Woodward
818-395-0928
woodwardl1@aetna.com

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CVS Health commits to flattening the second curve of the COVID-19 pandemic

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Company to increase access to critical mental health services for front-line workers impacted by COVID-19

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — CVS Health today announced its commitment to flattening the "second curve," the less visible but escalating mental health crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. To help address America's expanding mental and emotional wellbeing needs, the company is enhancing its nationwide mental health programming effort with new charitable investments focused on health care workers, essential workers and seniors.

"The wrath of COVID-19 is not just physical. Mental trauma is the deadly undertow of the pandemic's first wave," said Karen S. Lynch, Executive Vice President, CVS Health and President, Aetna Business Unit. "The impact of isolation, fear, uncertainty and loss can be just as deadly as the virus itself. It is silent and can't be seen, but we are all affected by it. We are committed to helping our nation rise above this second wave by first providing support for those who need it most, including heroes on the frontlines and seniors."

Since March 1, CVS Health has seen a 200 percent increase in virtual mental health visits as compared to the same period last year, as well as substantial increases in calls for help with psychological distress including anxiety, grief and loss, and trauma. Health care workers are under extreme stress and anxiety fighting to save lives, while in many cases, isolating themselves after shifts to keep their own family safe. Self-isolation also affects older adults whose only social contacts are outside of their homes. Those who don't have close family or friends living within their personal "safe-zones" and who rely on outside contact through social programs and community activities can be placed at increased risk of mental health problems.

CVS Health will increase access to the following resources through targeted financial support:

  • Supporting Americares COVID-19 Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) Project with a $500,000 contribution from the Aetna Foundation to help frontline health care workers, particularly those who serve low-income populations, improve their mental health awareness, knowledge and resiliency, and understand the mental health concerns impacting their patients.

  • Outpatient counseling for hospital-based employees will be provided through Give An Hour via a $220,000 contribution from CVS Health. Give An Hour will offer no-cost counseling both during and after the pandemic to help health care workers manage trauma responses such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress in some of the most heavily impacted states, including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Access support from Give an Hour.

CVS Health is also making Aetna’s Resources for Living (RFL) program available to everyone, which includes:

  • Real-time phone support to help callers cope with the emotional impact of the pandemic (accessible by calling 1-833-327-AETNA or 1-833-327-2386).

  • Access to informational content, community referrals and management consultation for organizations (even those who do not partner with Aetna).

  • Employers may access this consultation by calling 1-800-243-5240.

  • Support for basic needs including family meals, access to childcare, and financial guidance.

Finally, CVS Health is offering increased support for its own employees through various resources that help build mental health resilience, cope with uncertainty, reduce stress and stay connected. These services will be delivered with 7 Cups, an online platform that connects people to a caring, emotionally supportive volunteer listener to prevent depression and anxiety

  • Partnering with vendors to provide direct access to essential needs for seniors.

  • Access to Aetna’s RFL Toolkit online, which includes live webinars, targeted articles and expert resources on key topics like managing stress, helping young children cope and strategies for medical staff.

About CVS Health

CVS Health employees are united around a common goal of becoming the most consumer-centric health company in the world. We're evolving based on changing consumer needs and meeting people where they are, whether that's in the community at one of our nearly 10,000 local touchpoints, in the home, or in the palm of their hand. Our newest offerings from HealthHUB locations that are redefining what a pharmacy can be, to innovative programs that help manage chronic conditions are designed to create a higher-quality, simpler and more affordable experience. Learn more about how we're transforming health at https://www.cvshealth.com.

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Ethan Slavin
860-273-6095
SlavinE@aetna.com

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Flattening the second curve

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As we combat the physical effects of COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are simultaneously confronted with deep feelings of stress, fear and anxiety. We are facing profound loss, economic uncertainty, social isolation, and worry for the health of those we love. This time of mental and emotional crisis is the ‘second curve’ of the pandemic, and we must work together to flatten this curve, too.

If you are struggling, please know — you’re not alone.

In times of great need, there will always be great helpers and heroes — those who go above and beyond to keep others safe and comfortable, heal sickness, and provide access to essential services and resources. In the wake of this pandemic, these helpers and heroes have missed sleep, lost jobs, mourned loved ones and become infected themselves — all while staying committed to helping and serving others. These helpers need help, too.

To answer that call, CVS Health is stepping up our commitment to supporting those who care for us by connecting them with mental wellbeing resources and counseling services designed to address their needs during this unprecedented and difficult time.

We’re proud to now offer expanded services and resources to support our most significantly impacted groups — our frontline health care workers, our essential workers, our seniors, and our furloughed and laid-off workers. Read on to learn more.

Maintaining mental wellbeing right now is more important, and more challenging, than ever. We can help.

Read the infographic


Impacted? We’re here to help.


Frontline health care workers

Through support from CVS Health and the Aetna Foundation, we are working to address the needs of the health care workforce by offering access to no-cost mental health counseling via Give An Hour.

  • Give An Hour offers personalized counseling to hospital-based clinical and non-clinical employees, and loved ones of essential hospital workers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to help manage trauma responses including, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress. Access support from Give an Hour.

Aetna’s signature Resources For Living (RFL) program is also offering a variety of wellbeing resources and support options to those in need, whether or not they’re covered in Aetna insurance plans. Individuals who do not have RFL as an insurance plan benefit should call 1-833-327-AETNA (1-833-327-2386) for assistance. RFL resources include:

  • In-the-moment phone support to help cope with the emotional impact of the event

  • Guidance for frontline workers on how to cope with the traumatic stress effects of COVID-19


Essential workers

CVS Health is committed to helping essential workers, including grocery, pharmacy and service employees, who are also on the frontlines of the pandemic.

Aetna Resources For Living (RFL) is providing mental wellbeing services, in addition to identifying resources to support basic needs such as meals, childcare, eldercare, and financial guidance. Services are available to all even if your insurance plan benefits do not include RFL.

  • Get real-time phone support to help cope with the emotional impact of the pandemic. Call 1-833-327-AETNA (1-833-327-2386)

  • Listen to podcasts about relevant topics such as grief, loss, resiliency, self-care, and empathy

  • Discover ideas for things to do with your kids while you’re together at home


Seniors

Staying connected during social distancing can be challenging, especially for seniors who are most at risk for social isolation. We’re here to help.

Aetna Resources For Living (RFL) is providing wellbeing and emotional support for seniors, expanding social connectedness outreach. Additionally, through RFL, seniors can access support for basic needs including food, prescription, and meal delivery services. If you need assistance, call RFL at 1-833-327-AETNA (1-833-327-2386).


Furloughed or unemployed

A job loss can take a toll on your mental wellbeing. Resources are available to help you address fears and anxiety.

Aetna Resources For Living (RFL) is providing support for basic needs. Resources include emotional support for coping with job loss, family meals, and financial guidance. To speak to someone, call 1-833-327-AETNA (1-833-327-2386).


CVS Health colleagues

Resources are also available to help CVS Health colleagues build mental health resilience, cope with uncertainty, reduce stress and stay connected.

  • 7 Cups provides free, on-demand emotional health support services that make behavioral health care accessible through community, trained volunteer listeners.

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The right care, right now

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When Justin Steinman arrived at his Wellesley, Massachusetts office on March 4, he readied himself for a busy day. Although not yet extreme, confirmed COVID-19 cases reported by the CDC were rapidly emerging and had jumped overnight from 98 to 164 cases in the United States.

The forefront of telemedicine

At 11:00 AM, Justin’s phone rang.

On the line was Dan Finke, Executive Vice President, Commercial Business and Markets, Aetna.

He asked Justin to brainstorm ideas on how Aetna could respond to COVID-19, specifically around increasing access to care and ensuring cost would not stop any member from receiving a COVID-19 test or treatment.

Telemedicine was a no brainer.

“Aetna has long been a believer in telemedicine,” said Justin Steinman, vice president, Commercial Products, Aetna. “We quickly figured out a way to expand telemedicine access. By using telemedicine, we ensure our members get the care they need from home, thus helping to lower their potential exposure to COVID-19, and also reducing the exposure risk providers face.”

The right risks with members in mind

Forty-eight hours later, Aetna announced its plans to waive Commercial member co-pays for all telemedicine services through June 4, 2020. Medicare soon followed suit, waiving telemedicine co-pays for all Medicare Advantage members until further notice. The launch would not have been possible without at least a dozen teams such as Clinical, Service Operations, Network, Legal, Compliance, Actuary, and Digital, who collaborated seamlessly.

“Other insurance companies were announcing plans to waive member out-of-pocket costs for telemedicine visits related to COVID-19, but we decided to take it a step further,” Justin said. “We realized that waiving member out-of-pocket costs for all telemedicine visits — not just COVID-19 — was the right thing to do.”

Many Aetna providers are virtual enabled. Aetna members can identify if their doctor is seeing patients virtually by checking DocFind, which is Aetna’s online provider directory. Under current government regulations, doctors can even see patients using Skype or FaceTime. Aetna members can also do a virtual doctor visit through Teladoc®, an industry leader in telemedicine.

“Since we announced the telemedicine co-pay waiver, our Teladoc member visit volume has grown,” Justin said. “The large majority of those visits are for reasons other than COVID-19-related symptoms. Member feedback is that they appreciate the speed and convenience of telemedicine, particularly at a time when we’re all being encouraged to stay home.”

MinuteClinic Video Visits are an affordable cash pay option for people who do not have health insurance, with visits costing $59. Video Visits are also covered by most Aetna insurance plans.

“The best way to keep people healthy is through relationships,” Justin said. “Keeping people healthy requires collaboration between the member, their medical providers, and Aetna. “And right now, telemedicine is a huge component of building and maintaining that relationship.”

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