Press Releases

Monday, April 20, 2020

Highmark expands telehealth opioid treatment program to Pennsylvania, Delaware during COVID-19 crisis

Health-related costs are reduced significantly through this program

PITTSBURGH (April 20, 2020) — Highmark today announced that its commercial, Affordable Care Act and Medicare Advantage members in Pennsylvania and Delaware now have access to a comprehensive, technology-enabled opioid use disorder (OUD) program. The program, which was first rolled out to Highmark's West Virginia members in January of 2020, will help preserve treatment access and promote recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

"In the communities that we serve and across the country, patients face extremely limited access to opioid use disorder treatment and medication–assisted treatment (MAT) therapy," says Dr. Caesar DeLeo, vice president and executive medical director of strategic initiatives for Highmark. "The COVID-19 crisis has created even more treatment access challenges, while also fueling feelings of isolation and despair. By expanding this program, we're harnessing technology to support our members on their path to recovery during this period of social distancing."

The OUD treatment program is offered in partnership with Bright Heart Health, an organization that offers nationally-recognized teleaddiction services. More than 90 percent of patients are retained in OUD treatment one month after beginning services, according to Bright Heart Health. More than 90 percent of patients are negative for opioids within 90 days of beginning treatment, and more than 85 percent are negative for other stimulants and sedatives. Health related costs are reduced by $20,000 annually when opioid dependent patients are on MAT.

Highmark members can access services and meet on-demand with medical staff and counselors through a smart phone, tablet, or computer. Members may access Bright Heart Health services via self-referral or through a warm hand-off, a process of transitioning a patient with a substance use disorder from an intercept point, such as an emergency department, to a treatment provider once the patient is stable.

Following an initial intake and assessment process, members are connected to a multidisciplinary care team that includes a physician, therapist, case manager, care manager and a wellness coach. The program offers individualized treatment plans and MAT that allows individuals to stop abusing opioids without experiencing powerful drug cravings or severe withdrawal symptoms.

"We are proud to partner with Highmark in expanding access to high-quality opioid use disorder treatment in Pennsylvania and Delaware, in addition to West Virginia," says Jon Ciampi, president of Bright Heart Health. "In this time of crisis and limited in-person treatment options, Bright Heart teleaddiction services will help ensure that individuals in need still have a supportive care team."

The expansion of technology-enabled OUD treatment is Highmark's latest step to support the communities it serves during the COVID-19 crisis. Highmark has also waived members' out-of-pocket costs for telemedicine, COVID-19 testing and in-network inpatient COVID-19 treatment; provided $2 million for COVID-19 relief efforts related to food insecurity, financial stability and safety net health care in Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia; and assisted local primary care physicians by advancing more than $30 million in payments earned through Highmark's True Performance value-based reimbursement program.

About Highmark Inc.
One of America's leading health insurance organizations and an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Highmark Inc. (the Health Plan) and its affiliated health plans (collectively, the Health Plans) work passionately to deliver high-quality, accessible, understandable, and affordable experiences, outcomes, and solutions to customers. As the fourth-largest overall Blue Cross Blue Shield-affiliated organization, Highmark Inc. and its Blue-branded affiliates proudly cover the insurance needs of more than 5.2 million members in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and West Virginia. Its diversified businesses serve group customer and individual needs across the United States through dental insurance and other related businesses. For more information, visit

For more information, contact:

David Golebiewski
Highmark Health