As the term implies, telemedicine is a virtual or remote way of seeking medical assistance using a telephone or any telecommunications device or medium. Online telemedicine or telehealth services serve the same purpose. A subcategory of telemedicine includes telemental health services, which specifically cater to health’s behavioral or psychological aspect.
But the big question is, are telemental health services covered by your health insurance? Learn more about this insurance topic by reading the important points below.
Check With Your Insurance Provider
Telemental health services are helpful if you need to talk to a mental health expert about your feelings and thoughts that might be disrupting your daily routine. So, if you feel lonely for no apparent reason, cannot sleep for days or weeks, and cannot function productively, you need to consult a psychologist, therapist, or psychiatrist. But you might be concerned about the expenses associated with this move.
If you want to be sure your health insurance covers telemental health services, the best way to do it is to ask your insurance provider. Check your insurance company’s website to get their phone number and branch address so you can inquire. You can find this information on the paper-based policy that your provider sent to you or its digital version, too.
By seeking clarification from your insurance provider, you’ll determine the estimated cost you’ll be spending out of your pocket if your coverage only partially applies or doesn’t cover the related expenses.
Insurance Providers Are Adjusting
With many patients availing of mental health services, employers and insurance providers are adjusting to the latest trend in telemedicine.
As published in an article in 2017, the insurance coverage for mental health through telemedicine soared, with more employers planning to offer behavioral health services as part of covered benefits. At that time, opioid addiction was a significant concern. Hence, employers took advantage of firms that utilize technology to provide employees access to psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists via mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, and computers).
As expected, the demand for telemental health services has increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic as constant news heightens fears about the disease. Of course, the fear of contracting the disease and the grief of those who lost their loved ones due to the coronavirus added more burden.
Thankfully, insurance providers, employers, and the government sector are acknowledging the importance of mental health preservation to reduce depression, eliminate addiction, and improve overall health. Hence, amending insurance policies are ongoing to accommodate this need.
What Your Health Insurance Covers
Many insurance providers have started to cover telehealth services, including telemental health. However, insurance coverage varies depending on the state, the amount paid or premiums, and how telemental health is defined.
Certain telehealth services, such as doctor’s visits, preventive services, outpatient care, and medical supplies, may be covered by Medicare plans. The amount of coverage may depend on other insurance coverage the policyholder has, the doctor’s charges, and the type of facility. Generally, Medicare covers electronic visits and virtual check-ins. Because of constant changes and updates in Medicare plans, policyholders should check with their providers to see the telehealth benefits their plan offers.
Private company healthcare plans may provide telehealth service benefits, too.
How Much Does Telehealth Visit Costs
Conventional mental health care has become quite costly. Psychiatric visits (in-clinic or office) cost USD$229 for the first visit and USD$119 for every follow-up visit.
So, it’s not surprising that people resort to web-based technologies or telemental health care services as an alternative to traditional mental care services to save money. In addition, patients who choose to stay at home and avoid the crowd and commuting can benefit from the convenience of telemedicine.
On average, a telemedicine visit costs about USD$79, while the average cost of an in-clinic or office visit is USD$146. This cost is comparable to that of telemental health visits.
Telemental health care utilize multiple technologies and capabilities that enable mental health professionals to provide patients with effective interventions to help diagnose and treat different mental illnesses. Furthermore, with online telemedicine, these health professionals have more innovative choices. They can implement various strategies in the treatment of mental disorders.
Insurance providers may or may not include telehealth visits on their health insurance plans. If they do so, more patients can find professional support and prompt intervention to reduce the rates of mental health disorders and related mortality.
Your health insurance may or may not cover telemental health services. So, it’s a good idea to contact your insurance agent or provider to discuss this matter. Nonetheless, the health insurance benefit you get from your employer might cover telemental health services since many companies have acknowledged the necessity of this health coverage and adopted it, even before the pandemic.