DURHAM, N.C. – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) announced it will speed up payments to providers as they deal with potential short-term cash flow challenges from COVID-19. The company is also fast-tracking proactive steps to support hospitals, physicians, nurses and thousands of other health care providers across North Carolina as they mount a heroic response to COVID-19.
“The COVID-19 pandemic requires everyone in the health care community to work together and do their part,” said Rahul Rajkumar, chief medical officer at Blue Cross NC. “For Blue Cross NC, supporting our members means supporting our front-line health care providers. The steps we’re taking will increase cashflow, remove administrative tasks and reduce strain on the system. We will continue to respond to this crisis to best serve our members and support doctors, nurses and hospitals.”
Blue Cross NC has put the following measures into place to assist doctors, hospitals and other health care providers:
- Speeding payments to providers
Blue Cross NC is enhancing our claims payment processes to speed payments to providers to help alleviate revenue and potential short-term cash flow challenges during the pandemic. These measures mean that 90 percent of claims will be paid within 14 days. A significant portion of these will be paid in seven days or less.
- Removing administrative tasks to ensure access and speed up care
North Carolina hospitals are anticipating a surge of patients in the next two weeks during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, Blue Cross NC has suspended many administrative requirements, such as prior authorization for acute inpatient hospitalization, so that hospitals can ensure access to care for the maximum number of patients, regardless of a COVID-19 diagnosis.[i] Blue Cross NC is not requiring prior approval for any medically necessary services if a patient is diagnosed with COVID-19.
- Reinforcing the health care workforce
Blue Cross NC is speeding its credentialing process to help meet the demand for clinicians related to the COVID-19 pandemic. We will credential physicians and physician assistants applying due to COVID-19 treatment needs within 72 hours of receipt of the necessary application, consistent with the North Carolina Medical Board’s processes.
- Offering paid time off for medical staff
Blue Cross NC is offering two weeks of paid time off (PTO) for its medical staff to volunteer to help with COVID-19 care.
In addition to the above measures, Blue Cross NC has already taken the following steps:
- Reducing strain on the health care system and making it easier to care for patients
Blue Cross NC was one of the first payers in the country to expand virtual care to pay providers the same for visits by video or phone that we pay for in-office visits. This includes all specialties and all services that can be delivered through telehealth, regardless of whether it may be related to COVID-19.
- Paying at parity supports providers financially as they make use of virtual encounters and allows them to continue to practice and see patients.
- The expanded use of virtual visits protects other patients, clinicians and staff by minimizing the spread of infection and easing the burden on emergency departments.
- Virtual care reduces administrative costs and the need for personal protective equipment.
- Eliminating cost barriers to COVID-19 treatment
Blue Cross NC is waiving all member cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing, screening and treatments for patients diagnosed with the disease.[ii]
- Blue Cross NC is reimbursing providers directly, including the full amount of members’ cost-share, at Blue Cross NC’s in-network or Medicare rates for treatments related to COVID-19 if a member is diagnosed with the virus. We call on out-of-network providers to accept our payment in full and to work together to shield North Carolinians from financial harm.
- By paying directly for COVID-19 related treatments, we’re ensuring providers are paid 100 percent of the allowed amount for care. This eliminates the need for provider debt collection and write-offs for nonpayment for patient cost-share.[iii]
- Protecting medication supplies
Blue Cross NC has put measures in place to help protect the availability of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine. This ensures that prescribers have access to needed medications, whether for COVID-19 or existing medical conditions, as they’re evaluated for effectiveness for COVID-19.
- Providing the right information to act quickly
Blue Cross NC offers easy access to the information providers need. We want all providers to focus on delivering the best possible care with minimal burdens. Blue Cross NC has launched a provider website with detailed guidance and resources, including FAQs, presentations and webinars. We’ve also worked with health systems to promote the first right step for members seeking care.
Blue Cross NC has already taken multiple steps to help members during this public health crisis, including waiving cost-sharing for testing and treatment related to COVID-19, expanding virtual care coverage, and increasing access to medication. Details on these measures can be found at www.BlueCrossNC.com/Coronavirus.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina:
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) is committed to making health care better, simpler and more affordable. We have been driving better health in North Carolina since 1933, working to tackle our communities’ greatest health challenges. Blue Cross NC serves its customers and communities of more than 3.8 million members, including approximately 1.1 million on behalf of other Blue Plans. Blue Cross NC is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Visit Blue Cross NC online at www.bluecrossnc.com. All other marks are the property of their respective owners.
[i] Changes apply to in-network, non-elective emergent inpatient admissions and post-acute care services and will be in place for 14 days beginning April 9. Some plans may be excluded.
[ii] Self-funded employer groups will be given the option to apply these changes to their employees’ plans.
[iii] Direct payment of any amount is not an acceptance of the assignment of a member’s benefit or any other member rights under their benefit.