What They’re Watching: Joel Gray, Anthem Blue Cross

Joel Gray is the Executive Director, CA Medicaid at Anthem Blue Cross. He joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss Medicaid and telehealth.

“We’re the first Medicaid health plan to try launching a service where anyone on Medicaid in our health plan can access a doctor 24/7 on their phone, in a home setting. And that’s really where the power of telehealth is. If you can bring telehealth into a home setting, or in the work, or in the school — a place where they actually are — that avoids them having to take time off of work or having to find transportation for this population. That’s what we’re trying to solve for.

So, we did launch this program, our members can see a doctor 24/7, 365 days-a-year for non-emergency conditions. But I think what excites me even more than the urgent care side of it, is behavioral health. In Medicaid there’s an extreme shortage of psychiatry and psychology. So, this same platform, with LiveHealth Online, our members can make an appointment with a psychologist or a therapist, they can see the same one repeatedly, and the same thing with psychiatry. Our wait times on that right now for this Medicaid population for psychiatry is only 14 days, though sometimes they can get an appointment in one or two days. Same thing with psychology. So, it’s a bit of a game-changer for this population because some of them have to wait six months before they can actually see a therapist.

For policy makers, I really think they need to reduce some of the regulations and restrictions on telehealth. There’s kind of a lot of things that get in our way, like can we do text messaging? A lot of folks use text messaging, it doesn’t matter if you’re on commercial insurance or you’re on Medicaid, text messaging is a big deal. There’s a lot of rules about how you can text message these folks and people need to take a hard look at that. Also, really make sure that they allow innovation to happen in private enterprise. Take some of the rules out of the way so that we can do primary care telehealth. I can say for FQHCs and “Four Walls” rules, and these kinds of things, it’s really hard to get around these policies so that we can launch telehealth initiatives in a home setting for this large population that are in FQHCs.”