Virtual-only plans: What Aetna, Kaiser, others envision

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A cast of insurers are forging ahead with virtual-only healthcare plans, but several are diverging on scope and application.

The conversation has resurfaced again as Aetna released Virtual Primary Care to self-funded employers Aug. 10.

Powered by Teladoc Health, the service is being released on a nationwide scale to self-funded employers. It features digital care solutions ranging from text or video call telehealth to select in-person services via MinuteClinic and CVS HealthHub. 

But Aetna's move follows a string of investments in the virtual-only health plan space throughout 2020. 

Kaiser diverged from Aetna's approach with its Virtual Plus plan, which it announced in September 2020 and launched in January 2021. The plan is accessible both to individuals and employers, offering services like medications delivered to a patient's home and access to in-person physicians in Kaiser Permanente's network. 

Other payers, such as Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Humana, also are rolling out virtual-only plans of their own. 

Harvard Pilgrim's approach, SimplyVirtual, was first offered to Connecticut employers in November 2020. The plan uses Doctors on Demand's platform to allow members to see their physicians and access other services, such as preventive care, chronic care management and more. 

Humana has partial buy-in to the virtual-only space, with Humana Healthy Horizons working with Vida Health to offer digital diabetes support.

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