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Mental Health provider Brightside Health is teaming with Optum and other healthcare organizations to offer telehealth-based mental healthcare to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.

In addition to Optum – through which Brightside will serve UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage members – the organization has established new and expanded partnerships with Centene, Lucet (to serve Florida Blue members), and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, among others.

With these additions, Brightside Health said it will be able to provide in-network mental health services to 50 million more people, bringing its total covered lives to more than 100 million.


Brightside touted the expansion as significant given that few telemental health providers accept Medicare and even fewer accept Medicaid, potentially leading to access and quality issues in mental health services for these populations.

Research indicates there’s a need: Medicaid is the single largest payer for mental health services in the U.S., and one in four Medicare beneficiaries are living with mental illness but only 40-50% receive treatment.

Brightside Health’s full suite of services – personalized psychiatry, clinically proven therapy and Crisis Care (a program for those with elevated suicide risk) – will be available under these partnerships. When paired with the company’s current commercial payer partnerships, the company claimed it will be able to provide covered care to more than one in three people in the U.S.

In the coming months, the company will add even more covered lives through additional Medicaid and Medicare partnerships and by offering services to traditional Medicare Part B beneficiaries, it said.

A study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry and commissioned by Brightside Health demonstrates the effectiveness of telemental health for people with reported incomes under $30,000 per year. A separate study found older adults see similar improvement in depression symptom severity after using a telehealth platform as younger adults, suggesting that age is not a barrier to telepsychiatric care benefits.


A recent Epic Research white paper found one potential shortcoming of telehealth: Virtual visits are linked to fewer in-person follow-ups as compared to in-office visits.

Mental health, physical medicine and rehabilitation, and pain medicine had at least a 20% higher follow-up rate after an office visit than a telehealth visit. Conversely, podiatry telehealth visits had an in-person follow-up rate 13% more than office visits.

Interestingly, telehealth use in 2022 and early 2023 was infrequent for most specialties, with only sleep medicine and mental health specialties conducting at least 20% of encounters using telehealth.

A J.D. Power study published this month showed a stark generation gap has emerged between millennials and baby boomers, with younger patients driving the highest overall satisfaction scores and older patients experiencing significantly lower levels of satisfaction.

At the same time, some populations – older Americans in particular – are facing some barriers to adoption, including struggles with digital channels, access and ease of use.

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: Jeff.Lagasse@himssmedia.com


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