Cigna Corp.’s (NYSE: CI) health services segment, Evernorth, continues to make behavioral health a top priority after seeing unprecedented levels of need in recent years.
Other large payers have certainly done so as well, but the developments from Evernorth suggest further investment from Cigna in the behavioral health space moving forward.
“Evernorth behavioral network has more than doubled in size over the past five years,” Ralph Giacobbe, senior vice president and head of investor relations at Cigna, said during the company’s Q2 earnings call on Thursday.
Indeed, this is part of a growing trend by payers – including CVS Health’s (NYSE: CVS) Aetna and UnitedHealth Group’s (NYSE: UNH) UnitedHealthcare – to focus on expanding behavioral health accessibility. Specifically, Cigna is looking to use a new digital platform to help make finding behavioral health easier for members.
“Our health service platform continues to provide[e] industry-leading pharmacy solutions while also building out our Evernorth Care capabilities to address the growing demand for behavioral services, health coaching and care delivery,” Giacobbe said.
In March, Evernorth launched the Confide Behavioral Health Navigator tool. The digital platform was designed to help patients get 24/7 access to care teams that can triage their symptoms and connect them to care.
“We launched Confide Behavioral Health Navigator to improve the way we guide people to the right behavioral care at the right setting at the right time,” Giacobbe said.
In terms of future goals, Cigna is looking to further integrate behavioral health services into its overall health strategy.
“[We are] seeking to advance as aggressively as possible behavioral health services and the connection of behavioral health services with physical health services,” David Cordani, Cigna’s president and CEO, said during the earnings call.
The influx of behavioral health needs, does mean a higher spend in this sector. However, Brian Evanko, EVP and chief financial officer, said during the earnings call that he doesn’t necessarily see this as a negative for the company.
“Last year, we saw higher-than-typical cost trends in our behavioral health book of business, which we actually viewed as a good thing from the standpoint of people getting the care that they needed,” Evanko said. “That’s moderated a bit here in 2022, meaning the cost trends we’re seeing on behavioral are lower than they were in 2021. And as a result of that, that’s provided a little bit of quarter-over-quarter, year-over- year favorability.”
Evernorth has made a deal with a number of behavioral health point solutions.
In 2020 Evernorth inked a deal with Quit Genius, a digital health clinic that treats addiction, in order to make the product available to its members.
Additionally, in 2021 the company made a deal with Alma, a business service platform for independent mental health practitioners. The partnership is focused on helping Evernorth customers find in-network therapists through Alma’s online directory.