Schenectady

MVP adds virtual primary care; first such option in NY for Medicaid members

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PHOTOGRAPHER:

SCHENECTADY — People insured through MVP Health Care can now get primary care consultations on the phone or computer through a new telemedicine program.

The Schenectady-based health insurer recently announced the partnership with Galileo, and said it would supplement in–person visits for patients who have a primary care physician or replace them for patients that don’t.

The use of telemedicine skyrocketed at the start of the pandemic, when travel advisories and distancing requirements limited in-person, non-emergency visits with doctors.

The new program is expected to be especially beneficial to MVP’s 200,000-plus Medicaid members, who until now were barred from virtual primary care options by government regulations.

This is the first time a virtual option has been available to Medicaid recipients in New York, said MVP Vice President of Health and Wellbeing Dr. Kim Kilby.

State officials identified the limitations to telemedicine access as a liability at the onset of the pandemic and have been working to address that, including through collaboration with MVP, she said.

“It’s actually one of the state’s main priorities,” Kilby said.

It’s more than a matter of convenience. MVP said nearly 40% of its Medicaid members have not seen a primary care physician in 18 months, thus placing at greater risk a demographic that already suffers from health inequities.

There’s a core of about 6,000 Medicaid members that MVP most hopes to reach, Kilby said, but all 700,000 MVP members can use the new service.

She said telemedicine is often transactional — a single visit to address a problem — but MVP is pursuing an integrated model that continues care beyond the single visit.

“By starting with the digital care team you’re going to be more thoughtfully guided to in-person care,” Kilby said. “I call it the virtual-to-physical care continuum.”

Preventative care through the new virtual service is no-cost to members. In the inaugural year, other services also are $0, except for members with qualified high-deductible plans.

The Galileo app is open around the clock, is available with Spanish language consultation and cuts wait time from days or weeks to potentially minutes.

The telemedicine staff can connect members with acute care, specialty care, chronic condition management, pharmacies, labs and more, also around the clock.

Kilby said limited office hours, lack of Spanish-speaking care providers and the inability in some cases to choose one’s own primary care physician all worked to limit the number of Medicaid members who would receive primary care. The partnership with Galileo addresses all of those things, she said.

Harder to resolve may be the technology hurdles involved with telemedicine: Some people aren’t sufficiently connected to use it, others may not understand how to use it.

Kilby said the infrastructure put in place to enable remote learning and work during the pandemic should help bridge these gaps.

MVP is trying to understand the gaps and address them rather than guess at solutions and implement them, she added.

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