LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WTVQ) – WellCare of Kentucky is expanding phone service and minutes to its Medicaid recipients in April as part of an expansion of telehealth services in response to the coronavirus epidemic.
Telehealth services with a doctor in WellCare of Kentucky’s network are available to over 400,000 members at no cost, the agency announced Wednesday.
Telehealth options give Medicaid members the ability to seek care while still following the #HealthyAtHome guidelines. Among the changes in that guidance, Kentucky providers can use regular telephones – meaning only audio – for telehealth visits if video is not a viable option and group outpatient therapy can now be done virtually.
In order to facilitate the use of telehealth options – and to combat loneliness and isolation – WellCare of Kentucky provides free smartphones to Kentucky Medicaid members.
WellCare of Kentucky is expanding limits on both calls and data for those smart phones. Data will be raised to 5 GB from 3 GB in April, and unlimited call minutes will be in place for both April and May. Talk time is usually 350 minutes.
“Even in normal circumstances, telehealth is a useful tool for many Kentuckians, especially those who do not live close to specialists or who have transportation obstacles,” said Bill Jones, Kentucky WellCare’s chief executive officer. “But in times like these, the benefits are even more significant. They reduce the number of people in waiting rooms and the exposure for health care professionals.”
While a doctor will not be able to make a COVID-19 diagnosis during a telehealth visit, the doctor will be able to assess a member’s condition and make recommendations for recuperating at home or visiting a clinic or hospital.
The service can also be used to address a number of other health issues:
- Colds, flu, and fevers
- Rash and skin conditions
- Sinuses or allergies
- Respiratory infections
- Behavioral health
In addition to expanded telehealth options, WellCare of Kentucky is supporting the state’s response in the following ways:
- No copays, deductibles, cost-sharing, or diagnostic testing fees.
- Early refills on some prescriptions, so members can have extra supplies on hand.
- Access to out-of-network services when appropriate.
Since becoming a standard feature of WellCare of Kentucky’s coverage in 2016, over 17,900 Medicaid and Medicare members have used the service to access in-network providers.
Members are encouraged to schedule telehealth visits in advance. To schedule a visit, WellCare of Kentucky members can call their primary care provider’s office to find out if they offer telehealth services or members can call WellCare of Kentucky Member Services at 1-877-389-9457. For more information about WellCare of Kentucky and its services, visit www.wellcare.com/kentucky.