May 15, 2020

To Our Valued Clients and Partners,

This is our 10th COVID-19 update. We hope you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy. The past ten weeks have transformed all of our lives. Our hearts break daily when we hear the numbers and when we see the images of those that we lost. Yet, we continue to be inspired by stories of survivors defying the odds and healthcare, first-responder, and essential workers risking everything. You and all of your members are our reason and our inspiration. We are in this together, for the long haul.
Today's update topics include:
  • Taking Care: An emerging mental and behavioral health pandemic
  • Unemployment fraud rampant and how to report it
  • Return to work testing resources
  • Trends we are seeing 
Taking Care: An emerging mental and behavioral health pandemic
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. On May 13th, the United Nations released a policy brief; COVID-19 and the Need for Action on Mental Health . The brief points out that “before COVID-19 emerged, statistics on mental health conditions (including neurological and substance use disorders, suicide risk and associated psychosocial and intellectual disabilities) were already stark.” The brief warns that COVID-19 is making a stark situation even more dire for certain populations including all of those most vulnerable to contracting the coronavirus as well as children, adolescents, and young people, women, and people with underlying mental health and substance abuse conditions.
Taking care of our members during a pandemic means that every day we hear first-hand about their very personal experiences during this pandemic. The coronavirus affects all of our members. Some members may see it as a mere disruption to their daily lives while other members experience it as a life-altering trauma. We continue to see an increasing volume of members in need of mental health care. Mental health is real and we are here to help.
Access to mental health providers and navigating mental health resources can be a challenge. During March and April our telehealth partner, MDLIVE, saw a marked increase in virtual behavioral health visits across all age segments.
  • MDLIVE’s behavioral health visit volume increased by nearly 50% in March over the monthly average for January and February. Additionally, MDLIVE saw a 72% increase in visit volume in April as compared to March.
  • Repeat visit rates among behavioral health users are strong with 89% of therapy patients and 69% of psychiatry patients having conducted two or more visits during the past 12 months.
  • The majority of our clients already have or are looking to add behavioral and psychiatric coverage to their MDLIVE telehealth benefit. 
  • MDLIVE expanded its national provider network of board-certified psychiatrists and licensed therapists by 50% over the past few months to meet an anticipated increase in demand.
  • The average wait time to schedule a behavioral health appointment remains at two to three days despite the significant increase in demand, which continues to be less than the weeks or months typically required for an in-office appointment.

In addition to MDLIVE’s services, many community-based mental health providers now offer therapy through telemedicine so that existing patients can continue treatment in a virtual setting. We highly encourage employers to remind employees about their mental health benefits and coverage.
Members can find in-network therapists on our member portal through three simple clicks:

1)        Click on the tile labeled 'find a doctor or hospital'
2)        Type ‘therapist’ into the search bar
3)        Check the filters on the left for ‘accepting new patients’ and if desired, ‘telehealth’
We encourage clients and members to take advantage of EAP options that they may have in place. Most EAP programs offer 2-6 telephonic or in-person visits with licensed professionals at no additional cost to the plan or member. These services are typically available to any member living in a household, not only to members on an employer’s health plan.
We also encourage clients to direct members to mental health crisis lines such as: 
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1.800.273.8255) 
The Washington Recovery Help Line (1.866.789.1511)
County-based crisis lines available to all residents: 
These national mental health organizations have curated a wealth of additional information and resources:
Unemployment fraud rampant and how to report it
Yesterday, The Seattle Times reported that the Washington State Employment Security Department has put a “halt on unemployment payments for two days after finding $1.6 million in fraudulent claims amid the coronavirus pandemic.” This follows a Seattle Police Department warning last week about criminals exploiting COVID-19 to commit unemployment fraud.
Employers should be on the lookout for unemployment claimant fraud and report it to their state. The U.S. Department of Labor lists has links for all 50 states for the public and employers to report claimant fraud.

At this time, law enforcement has not released information on suspects and asks that unemployment fraud crime victims file police reports. The Seattle Police Department recommends victims take these steps after reporting unemployment fraud to their employer and their state’s employment security department:

1) The victim should file a police report with their local law enforcement jurisdiction and record the police report case number keep records of related information.
2) Obtain a free credit report from the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion at www.annualcreditreport.com  or call 1-877-322-8228.

  • Report to the credit bureaus that the fraudulent claim was made using your identity and provide them with the case number from your police report. You can have a fraud alert put on your identity or freeze your credit. Doing either is free by law.
  • A fraud alert is free and will make it harder for someone to open new accounts in your name. To place a fraud alert, contact one of the three credit bureaus. That company must tell the other two.
Experian 1-888-397-3742
TransUnion 1-800-680-7289
Equifax 1-888-766-0008
  • Check your credit activity at least once a year. Victims of identity-theft have the right to check it monthly.
  • Credit Freeze – If you do not have upcoming large purchases, such as a home, you may want to freeze your credit for more protection. It is free and you can do it yourself. https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs  
3) File reports with the FTC and the IRS:

  • Consider setting up an IRS account at https://www.irs.gov/payments/view-your-tax-account. If you create an account with your social security number it will prevent criminals from creating an account using your identity.
  • Another option is to lock your social-security number at https://www.e-verify.gov/employees (The next wave of this cyber-attack may be IRS tax fraud.)
  • All of this reporting seems redundant, but we want to make sure you are recognized as a victim by the local, state, and federal government. Also, the more people who report it, the more support Law Enforcement agents will get to pursue the perpetrators.
  • Keep Your Notes! Hang on to any notes, copies of emails, etc. This is the paper trail that you can reference if you face any identity issues or locate inaccuracies on your credit history sometime in the future.
Return to work testing resources
Keep an eye out for an upcoming invite from us. We will be hosting a webinar soon with detailed information from testing experts to help employers with return-to-work testing and answer any questions you may have.
As of this writing, the FDA has granted emergency use authorization to 13 serological, COVID-19 antibody tests. While COVID-19 antibody tests are commercially available, the CDC is still in the process of evaluating the performance of these tests. It is not clear yet, what degree of immunity is associated with COVID-19 antibodies nor what the appropriate uses of these tests will be.
The current thinking is that any reopening strategy must combine continued social-distancing, mask-wearing, frequent hand-washing, surface disinfection, testing, and contact tracing. Over the last week, several states have announced contract tracing strategies. On May 12th, Governor Jay Inslee announced that 1371 contact tracers will be trained and ready by today to support Washington’s new contact tracing initiative. Governor Kate Brown announced yesterday that 31 Oregon counties begin their first phase of reopening today. Idaho’s Director of the Department of Health and Welfare, Dave Jeppensen, explained in a Boise State Public Radio interview yesterday that Idaho will fuel its contact tracing program with some of its $7 million in CARES Act funding. Utah was one of the first states in the nation to launch a contract tracing app and already has 45,000 people signed up.
The race is now on for a vaccine. We want you to know that while several vaccine trials are underway and being fast-tracked, any mention of a vaccine timeline at this point is speculative. We know that some sources are saying that a vaccine is possible this fall. Please know that we do not expect a vaccine to be available for the general public for at least nine months. 
Trends we are seeing
We continue to see a steady volume of diagnostic testing claims across our business and anticipate that volume to remain steady for the near future. We also continue to see an uptick in the scheduling of elective procedures. Hospitals and outpatient surgical centers in most states are reopening this month. 

We’re Here for You  
Our focus, dedication, and support remain steadfast as we navigate these unique times with you. Know that our Care Management nurses are reaching out to those members diagnosed with COVID-19  to help them access the care and resources they need to recover safely. Thank you for your continued trust in our organization. We are in this with you and hope that you and yours stay safe and healthy. As a reminder, we are now publishing this update on a bi-weekly basis and will continue to do unless something substantive happens in the interim that affects your plan. Please reach out to your Account Manager if you have any questions or if there’s anything we can do to help. 

Best Regards,

Lindsay Harris
Chief Growth Officer
RGA - Proving What’s Possible in Healthcare ®