CVS Health subsidiary Aetna is ending commercial coverage of dozens of virtual services put into place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of Dec. 1, Aetna will end coverage of about 80 types of virtual care, ranging from behavioral care services that include alcohol and drug treatment to ophthalmological care and services related to end-stage renal disease, according to a bulletin sent to providers last month. The company will also end audio-only coverage of nearly 60 services, including psychotherapy treatment, counseling for alcohol misuse, obesity counseling and more, the bulletin said. Aetna noted it had continued to cover these services past the May 11 end of the public health emergency.
The insurer said it had 18.1 million commercial enrollees as of June 30. The company counts exchange members and self- and fully funded employers as commercial enrollees. Aetna's self-funded employer customers could negotiate with the insurer to include the virtual services in their workers’ health benefits.
Aetna did not immediately respond to an interview request.
CVS's second-quarter net income declined 37% to $1.9 billion, or $1.48 per share, while revenue increased 10.3% to $88.9 billion. The company launched an $800 million cost-cutting plan in August that included laying off 5,000 workers to compensate for rising expenses, expansion costs tied to its acquisition of Oak Street Health and lackluster retail performance.
Aetna’s announcement comes as consumer demand for telehealth services declines for everything but mental healthcare.
Consumers scheduled 41.5 million virtual visits during the fourth quarter last year, down 45.8% from the 76.6 million telehealth visits recorded at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020's second quarter, according to a report last month by Trilliant Health, an analytics firm. Consumer demand for virtual behavioral health treatment bucked the trend, the report said.
President Joe Biden signed sweeping legislation last year that extended Medicare waivers for telehealth reimbursement through 2024, but those provisions do not apply to the commercial market.