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July 14, 2020

DES MOINES, IA – New survey data from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) shows three in four Americans with behavioral health conditions are continuing therapy services during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the prevalence of virtual visits and other digital health services. Further, while 42 percent of people reported delaying a health care appointment due to the pandemic, only 16 percent have delayed a mental health appointment.

Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield has seen virtual visits for behavioral health increase among its members since March when the company began encouraging its members to use virtual health care visits to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Since then, virtual visits for behavioral health conditions have increased by more than 3,000 percent. Most of the virtual visit claims received are for existing patients seeking to continue their behavioral health services.

"Virtual visits, especially those for mental and behavioral health, have found an important role during these trying times," said Laura Jackson, Wellmark's chief health officer. "It's encouraging to see how virtual visits are helping consumers stay connected with their providers to receive the appropriate consultation, testing and care they need to get and stay healthy."

Wellmark is waiving the member cost-share for virtual visits until Aug. 31, 2020, for appropriate medical and behavioral health care visits when seeking care from an in-network provider.

According to the BCBSA survey, use of virtual visits has almost doubled since the summer of 2019, with more than half of that growth occurring since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Millennials and Gen Z age groups are using these services more than older age groups, reporting a 30 and 35 percent usage of telemedicine respectively, compared to only 15 percent of Baby Boomers. A millennial is someone who was born between 1981 and 1996. There are nearly 73 million millennials in the U.S. right now — the second largest generation among commercially insured Americans, as reflected in Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Health of America Report® series, "The Health of Millennials," released late last year.

To learn more about what Wellmark's response to COVID-19, visit