CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, a mid-Atlantic, nonprofit Blues affiliate, recently unveiled a new, plan-owned and operated virtual care service, CloseKnit. CareFirst tells AIS Health that CloseKnit will offer services including “urgent care, behavioral and mental health, care coordination, [and] insurance navigation,” but the insurer hopes most of all that CloseKnit will make primary care more available to its members.

CloseKnit will include a proprietary mobile app. CareFirst hired veteran health care executive Mary Jane Favazza to run the new venture. Favazza’s last role was as general manager of Haven, the health care joint venture that JP Morgan Chase Co., Berkshire Hathaway and Amazon shuttered in January.

The move is part of a larger trend of payers rolling out telehealth and virtual care offerings — with plans responding to patients’ growing demand for those services after they became more available during the first peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cigna Corp. acquired MDLive, Inc. in March, while CVS Health Corp.’s Aetna began offering an employer plan built around “virtual first primary care” in August.

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