Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan paying workers to join the front lines of COVID-19 pandemic

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Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has announced several programs to assist providers with COVID-19 response. (getty/benkrut)

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is encouraging its medical professionals to volunteer to care for COVID-19 patients—and will pay them to do it.

Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer urged volunteers to join the front lines of the fight against the pandemic as cases surge in the state. Blue Cross said it will cover full salary and benefits for its workers that sign up. 

The insurer first began accepting volunteer applications last week and received more than 25 in the first 24 hours. So far, 30 workers have headed to the front lines. 

“We’re immensely grateful to every healthcare professional fighting this pandemic, and caring for those affected and saving lives throughout Michigan and beyond,” said CEO Daniel Loepp in a statement. “The compassionate medical volunteers from Blue Cross are playing a critical role and we’re proud to support their work during this time of incredible need.” 

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As of Wednesday, 20,346 cases of the novel coronavirus had been confirmed in Michigan, alongside 959 deaths, according to state officials. The Detroit metropolitan area is an emerging epicenter for the virus. 

Other steps Blue Cross has taken to support providers include offering accelerated incentive payments to more than 40 physician organizations that include some 20,000 primary care and specialty physicians through its Blue Cross Physician Group. 

The insurer is also suspending prior authorization for COVID-19 testing and eased requirements for clinical review requirements for CT chest scans, acute care hospitals for all medical admissions and for the first three days at a skilled nursing facility. 

Approved prior authorizations will also be extended, Blue Cross said. 

Cash-strapped providers have faced notable workforce shortages, as the high cost of battling the pandemic has forced layoffs, furloughs and salary cuts.