Tags: Coronavirus | Health Topics | Healthcare Reform | Cold/Flu | insurance | telehealth | payments

Some Fear Telehealth Charges Might Discourage Seeking Care

a man buries his head in his left hand while on a video conference with his smiling doctor

By    |   Wednesday, 30 September 2020 05:53 PM

Some health insurance companies are beginning to change their coverage options for plans launched this spring to cover doctor visits done by phone or video, raising concerns among healthcare providers and advocacy groups the services will be used less, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

The changes, set to begin Oct. 1, vary from insurer to insurer and plan to plan but include out-of-pocket charges to patients, deadlines, and reimbursement strategies, the Journal said.

"Shifting the copayment back to patients now presents a risk that patients will cancel telehealth appointments or seek in-person visits that heighten the threat of infections," said Thomas Owens, senior vice president of Duke University Health System.

Though many patients would be required only to pay their doctor a set fee – or copay – for virtual visits, others might be charged the full cost or a percentage of it, depending on their plan.

Doctor visits by phone and/or video jumped nearly 50% in the spring after the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

According to the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, a research unit of Deloitte LLP, 28% of people in April said they had used seen a doctor via phone or video since the start of the year. In the previous 12 months, 19% said they had visited a doctor virtually.

The Journal quoted family physician Dr. Karen Smith in Redford, North Carolina, said she treats about a third of her patients by phone or video, many of them who are fearful of contracting the novel coronavirus.

"If they do have to pay, our patients are not going to accept the service," she said.

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Healthcare providers and advocacy groups are concerned telehealth services will be used less because they cost money.
insurance, telehealth, payments, copay, pandemic
Wednesday, 30 September 2020 05:53 PM
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