Oregon health plan to cover video visits, also offers members video visits from Teladoc

By Aditi Pai
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teladocacquisitonLifeWise Health Plan of Oregon announced plans to cover video visits to its members starting in the new year. While the plan will pay for video visits between patients and their providers, LifeWise also partnered with video visits company Teladoc to make its video visits service available to members.

Portland, Oregon-based LifeWise along with its partners Premera Blue Cross, Premera Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alaska, and LifeWise Health Plan of Washington, cover more than 1.9 million people in those three states. All of LifeWise Health Plan of Oregon's members, 52,000 people, will have access to these new benefits, but LifeWise's partners will only cover the services for select members in Alaska and Washington.

Through the program, LifeWise's members will receive health-related services and information for diagnosis, prevention, health advice, disease management, and treatment remotely. 

"By making telehealth services available, our members can have peace of mind that they will have access to virtual care in ways that fit their lives – whether it's from work or from home," LifeWise CEO Majd El-Azma said in a statement. "This service provides a viable alternative when in-person care is a challenge due to geographic distance, limited access to transportation, and a need for care outside of regular doctor office hours."

If members' primary care physicians already have video visit technology, members can use it to communicate directly with their physicians and have it covered by LifeWise. Otherwise, members can receive a diagnosis for their condition and when appropriate get prescriptions from Teladoc's network of remote care providers. And if a member supplies the name of their primary care doctor to Teladoc physicians, the Teladoc physicians can share a record of their virtual visit with them on their behalf.

LifeWise points out that the Teladoc service is not meant to replace the member's primary physician, but instead help members find care conveniently instead of making an unnecessary trip to the urgent care or the emergency room. Common conditions treated by Teladoc include bronchitis, respiratory infection, sinus problems, allergies, and influenza.

Teladoc offers patients an alternative to a standard doctor’s visit. When a patient needs a doctor but doesn’t want to make an appointment, he or she can call Teladoc to schedule a virtual visit. The visit includes a one-on-one consultation with a doctor over phone or via video chat. The doctor can (sometimes) access a patient’s EHR and send prescriptions for most medications to the patient’s pharmacy of choice — if allowed by the patient’s state’s laws. Teladoc raised $50 million in September