Blue Shield of Calif. waives out-of-pocket costs for Teladoc visits, Starbucks provides Lyra Health's mental health platform to employees and more digital health deals

Also: Welltok expands to Latin America with insurer partnership; Kyruus and GYANT combine their offerings for health system clients.
By Dave Muoio
03:34 pm

Blue Shield of California announced yesterday that it is now waiving out-of-pocket costs for all commercial plan members using Teladoc Health's services until May 31. This includes individual and family plans, as well as those sponsored by an employee.

"As we continue to closely monitor the COVID-19 situation, we believe making telemedicine more readily available is the right thing to do," Dr. Terry Gilliland, EVP of Blue Shield of California, said in a statement. "It’s important that we reduce direct human contact as much as possible as we assess cases initially. We believe in testing outside of medical facilities – either with temporary facilities adjacent to existing healthcare facilities, or via drive-through testing to help us reduce possible spread of the virus inside a medical facility."

Blue Shield had already removed copays and co-insurance payments for its Trio, Tandem and Medicare Advantage plans, as well as for its Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan.

Teladoc Health has seen demand for its virtual care services spike 50% amidst the ongoing pandemic, and announced on Friday that it had delivered roughly 100,000 virtual visits to US patients throughout the course of that week.

Starting on April 6, Starbucks will be providing Lyra Health's behavioral health benefits platform to its US employees and their eligible family members, the coffee and coffeehouse chain announced yesterday. With it, employees will be matched with video or in-person mental health appointments, while also having access to self-guided skills, exercises and assessments.

"We are constantly listening to our partners and exploring new ways to enhance the innovative benefits we offer to support them and their families," Kevin Johnson, Starbucks president and CEO, said in a statement. "Mental health is a fundamental part of our humanity and these resources will make a meaningful difference in people’s lives and help break the stigma around this complex issue."

This announcement comes a couple of months after Starbucks began offering subscriptions to Headspace, a meditation and mindfulness app service, to its US and Canada employees.

Consumer healthcare engagement company Welltok is making the leap to Latin America thanks to a partnership with Seguros SURA Colombia, a regional insurer with more than 12 million clients. According to the companies' announcement, Welltok's platform will help SURA members and dependents access well-being programs and other promoted health activities.

“Our mission of empowering our members in the practice of healthy habits through information, motivation, support and rewards is perfectly encapsulated by Welltok’s technology,” Juan David Escobar, CEO of Seguros SURA Colombia, said in a statement. “Rather than spending years and millions building the technology in-house, we are able to partner with Welltok to bring this innovative, and essential, offering to our members. Welltok’s offering perfectly supports our goals and research on keeping and maintaining a healthier population. Together, we are bettering the lives of the people of Colombia.” 

Provider search and scheduling technology-maker Kyruus and artificial intelligence-based virtual healthcare assistant GYANT have joined forces, the companies announced today. By combining their offerings, the platforms hope to offer their health system customers stronger access and self-service tools that can be hosted on the system's webpage. These joint features include chat-based care navigation, triage and scheduling within a single online consumer interaction.

"GYANT’s solutions play a powerful role in helping health systems engage patients online by providing critical assistance as they seek information and access to care," Stefan Behrens, COO and cofounder at GYANT, said in a statement. "Partnering with Kyruus provides for a natural extension of our services, helping better meet consumer needs early in their care journey by bringing scheduling support into the patient experience."

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