While coronavirus brought many non-clinical benefits to a halt, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI) is making wellness programming available to its members in spite of the pandemic.
“We know how important being active is to our members’ overall health and well-being. During the pandemic, we know many of our members are staying home to protect their health, but it doesn’t mean they don’t want to exercise,” said Paul Ryan, BCBSRI director of retail strategy & operations. “By offering free fitness classes through Facebook Live, we are giving our members, and all Rhode Islanders, a chance to exercise and experience the sense of community our stores provide.”
The benefit used to encompass in-person visits to one of four Your Blue Stores in the state, where members can discuss plan options and ask questions, take fitness classes, and make payments. However, to enforce social distancing, BCBSRI has altered its wellness programming to include weekday live online classes.
The classes occur at 10 AM five days a week and are streamed through Facebook Live. The wellness programming leader who is an experienced registered yoga teacher (ERYT) certified with a health care counselor (HCC) accreditation.
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Each morning, members can work on a variety of fitness skills during the wellness programming exercises. The skills cover balance, strength, core, tone, stretches, and relaxation.
BCBSRI also offers the Rhode Ahead, a health and fitness publication for members.
The BCBSRI “Keeping you well and well-informed” resource offers tips for employers and members about how members can stay healthy during the coronavirus pandemic.
At a time when it is impossible to engage in traditional wellness programming, such health benefits may be more essential than ever. Much of the attention has been trained on how to continue mental health programs as mental health conditions worsen throughout the crisis.
However, mental health can be influenced by physical exercise, as a recent Blue Cross Blue Shield report discovered. Millennials with major depression who exercised regularly experienced two percent slower progression of their mental illness than those who did not regularly exercise.
Payer organizations have acknowledged the critical need for mental healthcare support during this time. As states consider reopening, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) declared its continued commitment to mental healthcare, among its other priorities. Severe mental health conditions are on the rise and mental healthcare screenings are increasing as well.
Individual payers are also looking to extend wellness programming to members during these difficult times. UnitedHealth Group subsidiary Optum launched a virtual community center YouTube video series for seniors. The videos address themes such as exercise, healthy foods, and mental healthcare.
Other Blue Cross Blue Shield companies are likewise expanding virtual wellness programming and modifying other benefits to fit the shelter-in-place lifestyle.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana (BCBSLA) partnered with the New Orleans Pelicans NBA basketball team to spread awareness about maintaining fitness during coronavirus.
Blue Shield of California expanded access to its Wellvolution platform. Blue Shield of California partnered with the platform in July 2019 to offer customized wellness solutions to members on employer-sponsored health plans and those on the individual health insurance market or the family plans.
Now, Medicare and Medicaid populations will also be able to engage in personalized, digital health support that covers sleep solutions, stress management, tobacco cessation, chronic disease management, and more.
“Making fitness classes easily available to members is just one of the ways that BCBSRI is continuing to meet members where they are,” the BCBSRI press release stated.
BCBSRI does not intend to stop at fitness exercises for its coronavirus wellness programming. The payer plans to add resources on managing back pain. Other virtual classes will focus on eating healthily.
Update 05/20/2020: This article has been updated to clarify that Optum is a UnitedHealth Group subsidiary. A former version called it a subsidiary of UnitedHealthcare.
Source: HealthPayer Intelligence