Health insurance

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota adding Mental Health Peer Support Specialist Coverage to Commercial Plans in 2024

Marks first of-its-kind offering by local non-profit health plan;
Benefit to adhere with new national certification program standards 

EAGAN, Minn., June 20, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (Blue Cross) today announced that access to peer support specialists – trained individuals with lived experiences who provide support, encouragement and connections to resources for others facing recovery and mental health challenges – will be a covered benefit starting next year for members enrolled in fully-insured commercial plans.

The enhanced coverage comes as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recently released a new National Model Standards for Peer Support Certification, a directive from the Biden Administration’s strategy to address the nation’s mental health crisis announced in March 2022. All peer support specialists covered by Blue Cross will be credentialed according to the new national certification model standards. 

The benefit, which will be available at no cost to members when coordinated by an in-network provider, takes effect with plans beginning on or after January 1, 2024. Blue Cross will be the first non-profit plan in Minnesota offering this benefit to those with employer-offered health insurance as well as to those who purchase Individual and Family coverage on their own.

Blue Plus, the HMO arm of Blue Cross, has been administering a peer support specialist benefit since it first became available in 2009 for members enrolled in health programs offered by the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) Minnesota. In 2022, Blue Cross began discussions with DHS on best practices to develop similar coverage for Blue Plus members enrolled in commercial Individual and Family plans as well as Blue Cross members with coverage through fully insured employer-based plans.

“Blue Cross wants to set a new standard for how to extend this important benefit to more Minnesotans,” said Lauren Foster, principal program manager of behavioral health at Blue Cross. “With the national conversation around mental health continuing to show greater understanding about the links between behavioral and medical healthcare, we are proud to be taking this important step to connect people with the strength and understanding that comes from others who have gone through similar challenges.”

The peer support specialist is a non-clinical position that is uniquely trained to utilize one’s own lived experiences and care navigation journey to support others. The role is proven to be effective in helping with a range of difficult circumstances, specifically with those who feel at a loss and believe their situation falls outside the realm of ‘traditional’ healthcare. This sense of isolation can result in people delaying treatment or feeling unsure of where to turn for help, which Blue Cross and the federal government are working to address through increased opportunities for peer specialist support. Blue Cross’ coverage will encompass the following areas:

  • Certified Family Peer Specialists – have raised or are raising a child with a mental health or substance use disorder, providing non-clinical support to strengthen the family and increase parents’ ability to support the treatment goals of the child
  • Certified Peer Specialists – have had a mental health diagnosis and are available to assist members with their recovery journey
  • Peer Recovery Specialists – have had a substance use diagnosis and are available to assist members with their recovery journey

140 agencies currently employ peer support specialists throughout Minnesota. Blue Cross anticipates that care systems will have the opportunity to onboard additional peer specialists in order to meet increased demand.

The addition of a peer specialist support benefit in fully insured commercial health plans for 2024 is subject to regulatory review and approval of the Minnesota Department of Commerce (Blue Cross products) and the Minnesota Department of Health (Blue Plus products.)

Self-insured commercial groups will have the option to add peer specialist support coverage to the health plan benefit design starting with the 2024 plan year.

About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota

For 90 years, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota ( has supported the health, wellbeing and peace of mind of our members by striving to ensure equitable access to high quality care at an affordable price. Our 2.5 million members can be found in every Minnesota county, all 50 states and on four continents. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

SOURCE Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota

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