13 things to know about Aetna, Anthem, Cigna, Humana and UnitedHealthcare's virtual care strategies

Although telehealth adoption accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the nation's biggest for-profit insurers have been forging digital health partnerships and investments for years.

Here are 13 things to know about Aetna, Anthem, Cigna, Humana and UnitedHealthcare's telehealth expansions and digital health initiatives this year.


1. Aetna's cost-share waivers for both commercial telemedicine behavioral health services and all Medicare telemedicine services are set to expire Dec. 31.

2. CVS Health in September announced it would begin offering Aetna commercial members access to a one-year subscription to Apple Fitness+, which is set to launch later this year. The service allows members to use the Apple Watch Series 3 or later with iPhone 6 or later editions so users can check their health metrics and access personalized workouts. Aetna and Apple first partnered in 2016 on an employee wellness subsidiary program.


3. Anthem's cost-share waivers for COVID-19 testing and related telehealth visits and telephone-only visits are set to expire when the public health emergency ends around Oct. 23. Cost-share waivers for both COVID-19 treatment from in-network providers accessed via telehealth and non-COVID-19 telehealth visits across Medicare and Medicaid plans are set to end Dec. 31; and cost-share waivers for non-COVID-19 telehealth visits across fully-insured employer and individual plans are set to end Sept. 30.

4. In February, Anthem participated in a $48 million fundraising round for K Health, a startup that offers patients an artificial intelligence-powered symptom checker and telehealth consultations with primary care physicians.

5. Anthem also teamed up with Amazon in June to launch the Anthem Skill for Amazon's Echo and Alexa, which allows members to ask the devices to provide information about their medical and dental health plans.


6. Cigna's cost-share waivers for the following are set to expire Dec. 31: COVID-19 telehealth visits for Medicare Advantage plans; non-COVID-19 in-network medical or behavioral telehealth visits across Medicare Advantage plans; and expanded virtual medical care access for non-COVID-19 services from physicians and certain providers for commercial members.

7. Cigna expanded its members' access to virtual mental health services in May when it formed a new partnership with Talkspace. The online and mobile therapy company joined Cigna's behavioral health network, allowing the payer's 14 million members in its employer-sponsored health plans to talk and text with on-demand licensed therapists.

8. Cigna also recently participated in a $50 million financing round for on-demand mental healthcare app Ginger.


9. Humana's cost-share waivers for all telehealth visits, including specialty, behavioral and primary care, with in-network providers are set to expire Dec. 31.

10. Humana partnered with telehealth home care startup Heal in July, investing $100 million in the company to expand its home care footprint to markets including Chicago, Charlotte, N.C., and Washington, D.C.

11. The insurer also announced it planned to roll out more than 1 million in-home preventive care screening kits to members this year to increase the number of routine care screenings, which some people have avoided due to the pandemic.


12. UnitedHealthcare's cost-share waivers and expanded access for non-COVID-19 telehealth visits with in-network providers are set to expire Sept. 30, while cost-share waivers for COVID-19 telehealth visits will last through Oct. 22.

13. In September, UnitedHealthcare named 10 digital health companies joining its tech accelerator, including pediatric health remote monitoring company Good Parents and personalized digestive health company Dieta Health.

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