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Forget telehealth. We’ve got an app for that.

An April 28 story in Modern Healthcare covers Cigna’s latest pivot: offering mental health care via an in-house app service in lieu of telehealth.

Cigna’s latest offering for its 14 million members is a behavioral health coaching, therapy, and psychiatry services app called Ginger. This new product is reflective of a steadily increasing demand for behavioral health services in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s an app-based platform that connects users to a team of behavioral health coaches and therapists in the Ginger network.

As we’ve shared, insurers are pushing back on telehealth coverage—including mental health care. And here’s Cigna, taking a step to expand its mental health offering with this app. So, what’s our beef?

First off, a patient’s telehealth visit with their provider is a very different experience than using an app. And call us jaded, but we do feel like there’s more financial motivation behind this move than Cigna simply providing a service from which its members will benefit. As Modern Healthcare points out, there’s a lot of money being thrown at smartphone-based mental healthcare brands similar to Ginger. Talkspace has announced a $1.4 billion plan to go public; Lyra Health is currently valued at $2.4 billion, and Modern Health has raised $167.4 million.

There’s also the windfall that Cigna must have seen coming, as it was privy to the data from its own pharmacy benefit manager showing an 8% increase in its members’ increase in antidepressants between 2019 and 2020.

So, sure: On the face of it, Ginger is an app for people needing mental health care. But put another way, you might argue it’s yet another instance of insurers avoiding reimbursing patients’ preferred providers for telehealth services by pushing insurer-owned providers on them.

Original Article:

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