Anthem seeing massive spike in use of telemedicine for behavioral health

Anthem headquarters
Anthem released its second-quarter earnings report Wednesday morning. (Anthem)

Anthem is seeing a substantial increase in use of telehealth among its members, particularly for those with behavioral health needs.

CEO Gail Boudreaux said on a call with investors Wednesday that use of telemedicine for behavioral health among its members is at a rate 56 times that of pre-COVID-19 levels. The insurer's behavioral health team adapted quickly to the spike in demand, she said.

"Our Beacon behavioral health team has responded to this growing need and pivoted quickly to help transition care providers to a digital interface, enhance online support and services for consumers and conduct outreach for our most at-risk members to address special care needs," Boudreaux said.

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Demand for telehealth is high across the board, she said, with the number of virtual health visits up 300% compared to pre-COVID-19 levels. The insurer has facilitated 475,000 telehealth visits and more than 82,000 online COVID-19 assessments to date.

Anthem's LiveHealth Online telehealth platform had its millionth visit in April, and use remains high, Boudreaux said. 

RELATED: Telehealth claims lines up 8,336% in April due to COVID-19, report finds

Anthem's profits doubled year over year in the second quarter, reaching $2.28 billion, according to the insurer's earnings report released Wednesday morning.

In the second quarter of 2019, Anthem earned $1.14 billion in profits, making it the latest national health plan to report massive financial gains so far this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

It's a trend that's likely to continue as the rest of the major insurers release their quarterly reports. Significant declines in healthcare utilization as members stay home to avoid exposure to the novel coronavirus have proved a midyear financial boon for health plans.

Insurers warn, though, that if members' utilization sees huge spikes in the latter half of the year as elective procedures begin again in earnest, financial performance will decline in tandem.

Anthem's revenue was also up compared to the second quarter of 2019, according to the report (PDF); it brought in $29.26 billion in the second quarter of this year and $25.47 billion in the same period in 2019.

RELATED: Anthem, CloudMedx launch digital tool to help employers, public health officials track impact of COVID-19 

Anthem also added 309,000 members over the course of the second quarter, bringing its total membership to 42.5 million covered lives.

Anthem's second-quarter performance beat Wall Street expectations for profit but did fall short of projections on revenue. It stayed the course on its 2020 forecasts, estimating greater than $22.30 in earnings per share for the year while withholding other estimates due to the pandemic.

Over the first half of this year, Anthem brought in $58.9 billion in revenue and $3.8 billion in profit.

In its earnings release, the insurer touted the slew of actions it's taken so far to assist in mitigating COVID-19, including providing $2.5 billion in financial assistance and pledging to put $50 million over the next five years toward addressing health disparities.

"During these uncertain times, our business has continued to adapt and respond to the needs of those we serve in light of COVID-19 and the important discussions around health disparities and racial injustice facing our society. Now more than ever, our members, customers, and local communities are looking to us for support and I am honored by the trust they have placed in us," Boudreaux said in a statement.

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