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June 17, 2020

DES MOINES, IA – Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield announced today it has agreed to extend the same reimbursement fee to Iowa providers for virtual visits as is paid for in-person visits until Feb.1, 2021. This applies to all appropriate medical and behavioral health virtual visits with any Wellmark in-network provider in Iowa.

"This extension eliminates any uncertainties Wellmark's network providers may have regarding payment for virtual visits for our members who are seeking care during these unique times," said Cory Harris, Wellmark's president and chief operating officer. "We based this decision off the ongoing needs of our members coupled with feedback we received from our provider partners in order to best serve their patients during this pandemic."

"Telehealth allows all Iowans timely access to vital primary and specialty health care services that they might otherwise have to travel long distances to receive," said UnityPoint Health Interim President and CEO Susan Thompson. "Our patients have overwhelmingly expressed their satisfaction with our telehealth offerings and UnityPoint Health is thrilled to work with Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield to continue this benefit for our patients and providers."

"University of Iowa Health Care has proven that telehealth can be used as an effective tool for reaching Iowans across the state, acting as an important supplement for in-person office visits. During the first months of the pandemic, we saw an explosive growth in the use of telehealth, providing more than 63,000 telehealth visits from March through May," said Brooks Jackson, MD, MBA, University of Iowa Vice President for Medical Affairs & the Tyrone D. Artz Dean, Carver College of Medicine. "All 35 adult and 27 pediatric specialties at UI Health Care now have the ability to provide telehealth visits, saving each patient an average 46 miles round trip. The pandemic is not over and the increased demand for telehealth will continue, so we appreciate and recognize the importance of Wellmark continuing to make payments at the same level as in-person visits."

During this extension period, Wellmark will continue to work with providers to further evaluate the use and effectiveness of virtual visits to make the best long-term solution for our members and providers.