Bicycle Health teams up with Cigna Evernorth to widen access to virtual opioid treatment

Bicycle Health, a virtual provider for opioid use disorder treatment, has announced it is now part of Cigna Evernorth’s behavioral health network.

The startup’s services will now be available to all Evernorth and Cigna health plan customers in the 24 states where Bicycle Health operates. The potential reach is millions of patients, the company told Fierce Healthcare without disclosing additional details. 

According to federal data, approximately 40% of U.S. counties don’t have a waivered provider who can prescribe medications for treatment. Bicycle Health says its virtual care model notably expands access to opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment, which is out of reach for many patients. Among the counties with the greatest need, more than half are estimated to lack capacity to treat patients with buprenorphine in an office setting.

With the latest partnership, Bicycle Health hopes more patients can access behavioral health clinicians remotely and receive medications for opioid use disorder as necessary. 

“By joining Evernorth’s behavioral health network, health plans and employers are now able to cover this kind of care more easily than ever before,” Ankit Gupta, CEO and founder of Bicycle Health, said in a press release. “It is only through that kind of vision and leadership that we will turn the tide in addressing the opioid crisis.”

Telehealth practices prescribing controlled substances have recently encountered some challenges in trying to operate, Fierce Healthcare has reported. In at least one state, requirements have changed to mandate a prior in-person visit before a patient can be prescribed a controlled substance virtually. 

Several major retail pharmacies, including Walmart, have reportedly stopped filling such scripts without a prior in-person visit. This has implicated virtual OUD providers, in particular, threatening to interrupt care for patients in recovery.