Video & highlights from “5 Slides: How Medicaid MCOs are dealing with COVID-19” conversation

On Wednesday we held our “5 Slides: How Medicaid MCOs are dealing with COVID-19” virtual convening. The dynamic conversation brought together Peter Adler, President & CEO of Molina Healthcare of Washington, and Dr. Barsam Kasravi, MD, President & CEO of Anthem Medicaid of California.

Among the many issues covered by the two leaders, changes to telehealth during COVID was a key point of discussion. Dr. Kasravi kicked off the conversation with a slide detailing Anthem’s work in this space:



Anthem has been working on telehealth for over a decade, but utilization has continuously been low. However, when COVID hit and stay at home orders were put in place, the change was like “night and day” said Kasravi. He immediately began receiving text messages from providers asking for reminders of how to bill for telehealth and Anthem’s telehealth process.

That “night and day” change shows up in Anthem’s claims data. In March, telehealth visits increased 922% compared to February. In April, visits increased an additional 151% compared to the previous month.

“One of the silver linings I think with COVID is the accelerated innovation, I call it, when the status quo is just not sustainable,” said Kasravi. “It really had to be both the members wanting it and the providers accelerating their adoption to have this type of surge in utilization from what we’ve been seeing in the past.”

Similarly, Adler says Molina saw a major bump in telehealth visits. Pre-COVID, Molina’s provider network completed about 1,000 telemedicine visits per month. But in the month of April, Adler says that number jumped to 40,000 visits.

“And that’s truly in one month — from 1,000 to 40,000 visits,” said Adler. “Not only did this move more rapidly than any of us ever could have envisioned, but the profile of the care that’s being delivered is very similar to the profile of services that were being delivered under traditional brick and mortar environments.”

Adler says the 40,000 visits were split fairly evenly between physical and behavioral health, and that the visits account for 30-40% of the routine visits that were previously handled in office settings.

During the conversation, an audience member noted that some patients do not have access to high speed internet or cell phone service in their homes. She said payment parity for audio-only telemedicine has been important for rural primary care providers and asked if Adler and Kasravi anticipate audio-only services remaining a covered method of telemedicine after the pandemic ends.

Kasravi, who mentioned he had an audio visit with his son’s pediatrician the previous day, said that they will continue to support it and build on it where it clinically makes sense. But, he said they will also have to look at where it might not support the business model for specific specialties.

To conclude the 5 Slides conversation, host DJ Wilson asked Adler and Kasravi for any advice they would give to health care policymakers and seniors health care leaders as they navigate changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“One piece of counsel would be that we are not in a temporary crisis and that the world as we knew it is not the world we’re going back to,” said Adler. “As we envision opening up our communities, and our providers, and our health care, we should not be thinking about returning to the same services delivered in the same ways that they were before. We are in a new world and a new environment.”

The full video of the conversation is available above.