Behavioral health and physical health integration continue to be a top focus for major payers nationwide.
This morning, Cigna (NYSE:CI) hinted that coordinated care will continue to be an essential area for its health service division, Evernorth, in the future.
“Behavioral care continues to be an area of focus, and there’s a meaningful opportunity for behavioral care to be better coordinated,” Eric Palmer, president and CEO of Evernorth Health Services, said during the company’s Q4 earnings call, “as there are significant comorbidities with individuals with mental health care needs, along with other care needs, and we’re in a position to help us address those challenges.”
This comes just days after Cigna announced that it will sell its Medicare business to Health Care Services for $3.3 billion. This could make the company’s commercial plans and health service division a top priority going forward.
Overall, Cigna reported a total revenue of $195.3 billion in 2023. The revenue for the quarter was $51.1 billion, a 12% year-over-year increase.
Cigna’s behavioral health efforts
Over the last few years, behavioral health has been a significant focus for Cigna. In 2023, the company announced that it had expanded its behavioral health provider network by 30%.
Cigna has also taken a tech-first approach to addressing its patients’ behavioral health needs. In 2021, it rolled out the behavioral health navigator service, Confide, which offers 24/7 access to care teams to triage a person’s mental health concerns and connect them to a care provider.
The company’s prioritization of integrated care is born out of members’ and clients’ expectations.
“The market now expects much more coordination of behavioral and physical health and we will continue to expand services that we have within our leading capabilities,” David Cordani, chairman and CEO of Cigna, said during the earnings call.
Evernorth is no rookie in integrating behavioral health care into other areas of physical health care. For example, Evernorth has added behavioral health screenings to its oncology case management initiative. As part of the service, if a patient scans positive for a behavioral health concern, a case manager can connect them to a behavioral health coach, who can help set up an outpatient behavioral health appointment in the community.
“You need both physical and emotional health if you want to reach your optimal potential. For example, when one of our members is diagnosed with breast cancer, she is not only focused on what her oncologist is telling her, but she can be overwhelmed with anxiety,” Dr. Doug Nemecek, CMO of behavioral health at Evernorth, previously told Behavioral Health Business. An incredible range of emotions can occur in the face of a cancer diagnosis. So it’s important that we surround that individual and their family with appropriate behavioral health resources and support.”
Integrating care services may help the bottom line, as well as provide better patient outcomes. For example, cancer patients who do not receive behavioral health outpatient services are twice as likely to have an avoidable emergency room visit as those who do, according to the Evernorth Research Institute.