5 payers adopting 'virtual-first' models combining digital, in-person care

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While the pandemic has led to an increase in telehealth utilization, that wave has also led to the development of models that marry digital and in-person care.

Cigna announced that its recent expansion of MDLive services went hand-in-hand with the launch of a virtual-first plan for employers. The plans feature $0 copays on virtual visits with MDLive.

UnitedHealthcare similarly launched a virtual-first plan Oct. 18 for employers in nine states. The company said the plans feature premiums that are 15 percent lower than traditional plans and leverage Optum's healthcare services alongside UnitedHealthcare's national network.

Blue Cross Blue Shield affiliate CareFirst of Maryland also announced on Sept. 15 its virtual-first approach, CloseKnit. The model relies on the CloseKnit app to connect commercial members to virtual care first, with in-person care available after a referral. The move aims to bring care access to the 40 percent of the insurer's members who lack a primary care physician, the company said. 

CVS Health claimed to be the first payer to offer a national-level virtual primary care service through a partnership with Teladoc in August. The benefit allows members to stick with one virtual physician  but still receive $0 copays for select in-person services at MinuteClinic and CVS HealthHub locations.

Centene subsidiary Ambetter on Oct. 19 also partnered with Teladoc Health on a virtual-first plan. The approach offers members a personalized care team to help navigate Teladoc's virtual offerings or Ambetter's in-person network.

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