Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield announced today it has agreed to extend the same reimbursement fee to Iowa providers for virtual visits as is paid for in-person visits until Feb. 1, 2021. The extension applies to all appropriate medical and behavioral health virtual visits with any Wellmark in-network provider in Iowa, the health insurer said in a news release. Wellmark also extended some other temporary coverage for COVID-19 that expired on Tuesday to Aug. 31. Wellmark first announced the telehealth reimbursement parity on March 20. “This extension eliminates any uncertainties Wellmark’s network providers may have regarding payment for virtual visits for our members who are seeking care during these unique times,” said Cory Harris, Wellmark’s president and chief operating officer. One statewide health care provider, UI Health Care, has seen “explosive growth” in telehealth usage, with more than 63,000 telehealth visits between March and May. All 35 adult and 27 pediatric specialties at UI Health Care now have the ability to provide telehealth visits, saving each patient an average 46 miles round trip. “The pandemic is not over and the increased demand for telehealth will continue, so we appreciate and recognize the importance of Wellmark continuing to make payments at the same level as in-person visits,” said Dr. Brooks Jackson, University of Iowa vice president for medical affairs. Wellmark said it will “continue to work with providers to further evaluate the use and effectiveness of virtual visits to make the best long-term solution for our members and providers” during the extension period.