Member Spotlight #1: How CareFirst is informing and supporting Maryland’s business community through the COVID-19 pandemic


The following Member Spotlight is a summary from Whitney Harmel’s interview with Brian Pieninck, president and CEO of CareFirst. The full interview is included in the video below:


CareFirst’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and how they have informed and supported Maryland’s business community

CareFirst has been tracking the novel coronavirus for months. When it became clear that COVID-19 would spread across the United States and all of Maryland, CareFirst formed a task force that reports directly to Pieninck and the executive leadership team. Their approach has been prioritizing the health and safety of their workforce; the ability to continue business and uniterrupted service to customers; removing barriers to care for members; supporting frontline providers and clinical resources; and partnering with the community on readiness, response, and relief. This has evolved to include efforts to address the financial pressures for businesses and households in Maryland.

For the health and safety of the workforce and uninterrupted service to the customers, CareFirst moved within the span of a week from a company operating in an office to having 95% of the staff operating remotely, with all services and operations fully functional. The staff conducting critical functions in office are observing social distancing and other protective measures, such as enhanced daily cleaning.

CareFirst has placed a priority on removing financial barriers for members through measures such as waiving copays, coinsurance, and deductibles for telemedicine accessed through a CareFirst Video Visit, including behavioral health, lactation support, nutrition counseling, and urgent care visits. The 24/7 nurse advice line is also available at no cost and has nurses trained to help with coronavirus symptoms: (800) 535-9700. CareFirst has also waived cost sharing for in-network or out-of-network visits to provider’s office, lab or treatments related to COVID-19. These measures encourage members to seek medical care and obtain a diagnosis, which is good for the individuals, but it is also good for the community at large as it helps stall transmission. Finally, CareFirst is allowing individuals and employers to defer payments for up to two months or to enroll in payment plans to assist with the financial pressures during this time, allowing people to focus on taking on their health.

CareFirst has partnered with the Maryland Health Connection (MHC) to open an emergency special enrollment period for uninsured Marylanders during the State of Emergency for Coronavirus (COVID-19), open now and running through Wednesday, April 15,  2020, with coverage effective April 1, 2020.  Click here for more information from the MHC website.

In addition, CareFirst has supported the community by donating $2 million to non-profit organizations to assist in meeting health, social, and economic needs. More information and resources regarding COVID-19 for individuals, employers, and members are available on the CareFirst website.

What advice does CareFirst have for Maryland’s business leaders?

Pieninck encourages business leaders to think strategically on how they answer the near-term challenges, but to also think about the future they would like to build as they come out of this. He recommends that Maryland businesses continue to address the challenges presented creatively, as this situation is unique in modern history. He further encourages leaders to be empathetic and flexible during this time.

Pieninck discusses his own challenges working remotely and the adjustments he has had to make, but emphasizes the importance of social distancing and participating in public health measures. He states:

It is important for each of us, as leaders, to exhibit through our own actions the kinds of behaviors that we want society at large to adopt in the interest of overall public health.

He further recommends that each business think about ways that they are positioned to assist during this public health crisis. He advises businesses to consider how the resources, capabilities, and skills can benefit the public. Pieninck encourages businesses to do their part, where able, to help contribute to the efforts of the state and leadership to help get Maryland through this crisis as a community – ultimately making Maryland stronger and better.

­Click here to view up-to-the-minute COVID-19 resources on the Maryland Chamber of Commerce’s COVID-19 resources page.





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