Blue Shield of California teams with Accolade on new virtual-first plan

Blue Shield of California has teamed with Accolade to launch a new virtual-first health plan.

The new Virtual Blue plan will be available beginning April 1, and employers are able now to select it as an option for their workers, according to an announcement from the insurer. Members who choose this plan can access a slew of virtual health services at no additional cost as well as receive care from providers in Blue Shield's PPO network.

Virtual services available at $0 out-of-pocket include primary care, 20 different types of specialty care, integrated mental health care and around-the-clock urgent care, Blue Shield said. Copayments and deductibles will apply when receiving care in person or via virtual providers outside of the insurer's network.

"This is health care the way it should be—integrated and accessible care that puts the member and their health at the center," said Tim Lieb, senior vice president at Blue Shield of California, in the release. "The access to behavioral health services is especially important as our members cope and overcome the impact of the pandemic on their own lives."

"As a mission-driven nonprofit health plan, Blue Shield is committed to creating a healthcare system worthy of our family and friends that's sustainably affordable, and Virtual Blue is the latest example of that," Lieb added.

Blue Shield said Accolade's services will enable Virtual Blue to offer integrated, whole-person care with a digital focus. All care is then provided on a unified platform, including mental health care, and, in Accolade's model, doctors work alongside care coaches, coordinators and nurses who assist members in reaching their health goals, managing their chronic conditions and coordinating specialty and in-person services.

Virtual Blue members can select one of Accolade's primary care physicians based on multiple criteria including gender, race, years of experience and language. More than half (62%) of Accolades physicians are women, and close to 40% are Black, indigenous or people of color, the insurer said. Members are also able to choose physicians that have experience treating LGBTQ+ patients. 

Those who need or want in-person services will also have access to nearly 40,000 doctors through the PPO network, Blue Shield said.

"We believe that health care should be available to everyone and that primary care and mental health services are critical to making health care work for people," said Rajeev Singh, Accolade CEO, in the release. "We are excited to collaborate with Blue Shield of California on this virtual-first plan designed to make care available in new and innovative ways. Together, we aim to deliver better access, improved health outcomes, and personalized experiences for members."