Some people need to start paying more out of pocket for telemedicine appointments when their virtual visits to doctors have nothing to do with Covid-19 and are needed to monitor conditions like diabetes or check for sudden knee pain.
Two of the largest health insurers, Anthem and UnitedHealthcare, will no longer waive co-payments and deductibles for some customers from October 1st. People who relied on telemedicine to stay away from the emergency room or doctor's office during the coronavirus The pandemic needs to check with their insurers how much they will owe for a virtual visit now.
How much people who have not paid before now have to pay depends heavily on the type of visit and the details of their insurance policy. However, you may have the same $ 25 copayment to watch your doctor on video as you would when you walk into the office, and you could even pay for the entire visit if you haven't met your deductible.
While a virtual visit is likely a lot cheaper than an emergency room visit, according to an analysis of FAIR insurance claims, you could pay anywhere from $ 55 to $ 92, the average cost of an extended telemedicine visit within your Plan's network of Health, a nonprofit group.
The changes in the insurance policy were first reported by STAT messages.
In the early months of the coronavirus crisis, the federal Medicare program and private health insurers wanted to encourage people to seek alternatives to personal care by speaking to a doctor on video or phone. They relaxed many of the rules for finding virtual care and many waived the co-payments that would normally be charged for these appointments.
However, some of the largest insurers, like Anthem and UnitedHealth Group, were reluctant to extend the exemptions beyond the fall, despite case numbers across the country still close to 45,000 a day. And people are still wary of personal care. According to a recent analysis by TransUnion Healthcare, many continue to shy away from a hospital emergency room and rely on other options, including telemedicine. In areas where Covid cases have soared, like this summer in Arizona, Florida and Texas, people have turned to telemedicine, according to a study by Harvard researchers published last month.
"There are still people who are by any definition vulnerable and shouldn't navigate the health system for their own safety," said Shawn Martin, executive director of the American Academy of Family Physicians, describing the timing of the decision to stop the health system as " inappropriate".
"Downward economic pressure on families is only increasing," he said, noting that there are signs that people are already foregoing necessary care during the pandemic. While the co-payment may only be $ 35, people will be tempted to postpone contacting a doctor, he said.
The country's major insurers have been harshly criticizing in recent months for not doing more to help their customers while making huge profits from the drop in medical bills as people avoid doctors and surgery is delayed or postponed.
With some people returning to their doctor's offices for personal care, both companies have now reintroduced cost-sharing in some policies when telemedicine visits are unrelated to Covid-19 conditions. If you were responsible for a co-payment before the health crisis, you may be again. Employers who offer self-insured plans may have different rules.
If you're on a Medicare Advantage plan, you might not owe anything until the end of the year. Anthem said there will be no cost sharing for people enrolled on their private Medicare plans until 2021, and most Medicare Advantage plans did not require co-payments for a virtual visit, according to UnitedHealthcare.