In its latest effort to address critical mental health needs in North Carolina, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) announced it is expanding its network of behavioral health providers through a collaboration with Headway, a mental health care company that works with insurers to deliver high-value mental health care. Together the two companies will make it easier for Blue Cross NC members to quickly access — as soon as 48 hours — in-network therapists and psychiatrists who meet their specific needs.
Why does it matter?
The focus of the collaboration is on improving access to care for underserved communities, including rural and socially vulnerable counties, children and adolescents, and individuals across diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. This collaboration will help solve a significant health care challenge in North Carolina – the shortage of behavioral health specialists. North Carolina ranks 38th in access to mental health care, and 61 of the state’s 100 counties have no psychiatrists treating children and adolescents.
How will it work?
The two companies began working to expand in-network providers in May. Blue Cross NC members may find a provider and set up an appointment either through Blue Cross NC’s online provider directory or at Headway’s website.
Blue Cross NC and Headway will focus on expanding access to care for:
- Children and adolescents, who often need providers specializing in meeting their clinical needs. Headway will help Blue Cross NC recruit and enable child and adolescent specialists to further meet needs across the state.
- Socially vulnerable communities, including those in rural counties across North Carolina. The two companies will identify, credential, and support clinicians who practice in rural regions of the state.
- Culturally diverse backgrounds, recruiting providers across race, ethnicity, language, and gender to meet member needs.
Under the collaboration, Blue Cross NC and Headway have entered a value-based arrangement to deliver the highest-value services and results for members and providers. In May, Headway began recruiting and credentialing mental health providers, of whom more than 40% are non-white. Moreover, the majority of clinicians who have signed up with Headway were not actively accepting new in-network insurance patients before the agreement. Since the start of the collaboration, on average Blue Cross NC members have attended their first appointment within 5.4 days.
Headway makes it easy for members to get the best mental health clinician for their needs and preferences, across clinical specialty, location, virtual or in-person, personality, and race, language, and ethnicity. The service includes one-click booking of appointments for as soon as 48 hours, as well as price transparency on the copay.
Providers available via Headway may not participate in all Blue Cross NC networks. Mental health providers are not required to use Headway to be in-network for Blue Cross NC. Members can enter their insurance information to confirm if the provider they’ve selected is in their network.
On the record
“Too many North Carolinians have difficulty finding mental health services for their specific needs, especially given the overall shortage of mental health providers,” said Dr. Nora Dennis, lead medical director of behavioral health and health equity at Blue Cross NC. “Working with Headway gives us the ability to quickly add to the number of providers who accept Blue Cross NC insurance and allows more members to find convenient, appropriate care.”
“Headway is honored to leverage our proprietary technology that will enable convenient access to in-network mental health for Blue Cross NC members, especially those in communities who have historically had a harder time finding care,” said Andrew Adams, CEO and founder at Headway. “As a patient myself, my life was once rocked by depression, and I know first-hand how important it is for people to get timely access to great care. I’m excited to make this a reality with Blue Cross NC for hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians statewide.”
The collaboration comes as Blue Cross NC is investing more than $2 million to support 11 community organizations working to improve access to behavioral health services. This initiative is aimed at enhancing access in rural and marginalized communities and in regions of the state designated as Health Professional Shortage Areas.