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Tennessee's biggest health insurer announced Thursday it will cover all expenses for COVID-19 treatments, including hospitalizations, for the next two months.

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee said it is waiving all member cost-sharing for testing and treatments for coronavirus through May 31 to help ensure that all of its members get full treatment for the spreading coronavirus.

"As part of our mission, our first priority is the health of our members and the communities we serve," BlueCross CEO JD Hickey, M.D., said in an announcement of the new policy. "And since the COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything our members have faced in recent memory, we want to make sure we remove any barriers to receiving the care they need."

If a BlueCross member is diagnosed as having COVID-19, they will not have to pay any out-of-pocket costs for testing and treatment administered through in-network providers, including at a doctor's office, urgent care facility and emergency room, as well as related inpatient hospital stays, through May 31.

This benefit is available for BlueCross members in fully insured group, individual, Medicare Advantage and BlueCare Tennessee plans. BlueCross will encourage its self-funded employer group customers to participate in waiving cost sharing for COVID-19 treatments for their employees during this health crisis. However, self-funded groups will have the ability to opt-out of this decision.

This move builds on a number of steps by BlueCross to offer enhanced member support in recent weeks, including:

* Allowing early prescription refills and 90-day prescriptions to avoid increased risk of exposure

* Expanding access to telehealth services by making PhysicianNow visits available at no cost and by covering virtual visits with network providers

* Waiving member costs for any appropriate FDA-aligned test

* Through the BlueCross Foundation, the insurer donated $3.25 million to food banks across the state to meet increased needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic. BlueCross has also made donations of personal protective equipment (PPE) to some Tennessee health systems.

BlueCross said it has been following its established pandemic plan with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with local and state health departments, and adapting its approach as the situation evolves.

"Our clinical teams have been in close communication with public health officials so we can support our communities and any members affected by COVID-19," said Dr. Andrea Willis, senior vice president and chief medical officer. "And we know our members are concerned, so we're focused on acting and sharing information quickly to help bring them peace of mind."

BlueCross continues to maintain normal hours of operation and service levels for its members and network providers as a result of shifting virtually all of its 6,700 employees across the state to work from home last month.

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