The technology for telehealth changed so dramatically during the course of the pandemic that the potential of digital health care in providing increased access to mental health services has now been made abundantly clear.
Till recently, the biggest health insurance companies in the U.S used to cover only face-to-face therapy, but of late the waiving of certain rules and regulations post-COVID has helped stop this blatant discrimination in behavioral healthcare. As a result, just like in-person therapy, online care has also become an essential component of the healthcare system today.
Moreover, with more and more such platforms cropping up day by day, the signs are that most insurance companies will provide cover for online treatment from now onwards. The change may have been brought about by the coronavirus, but those who have just started to use telehealth suggest that these new norms are here to stay.
Cost and Accessibility of Mental Health Healthcare for Insurance Holders
Online therapy is not much different from traditional therapy in terms of effectiveness and service. Many therapists charge the same amount for online therapy and in-person therapy because essentially they are providing the same service.
Online therapy offers the perfect alternative to connect with an accredited therapist conveniently from your private space. This is especially beneficial for those living in remote areas, are homebound, or where no type of healthcare facility exists.
Most states today require insurance companies to provide cover for mental therapy in exactly the same way they cover a traditional session with a therapist in an institutional setting.
Now, apart from mental health platforms, even the traditional caregivers are willing to counsel clients virtually and are ready to accept insurance as well.
Online Options for Telehealth
There are several ways to choose a therapist for your online therapy sessions:
- The best thing to do is to call your insurance company for a referral for an online therapist or an online therapy platform. You can even ask which telehealth platforms offer behavioral health treatment and the insurance companies which cover it.
- Consult your primary healthcare doctor who has prior experience in working with therapists in your area and then reach out to them for further information on telehealth.
- Browse over the internet to look for reputable online therapy platforms that accept insurance. In our experience, for an app to be effective it should fit with the personal care goals of the user as well as for peer support. Some which are worth a look are:
Amwell: This is a reliable online healthcare platform that accepts insurance, including Blue Cross, Anthem, Aetna, United HealthCare and Blue Shield.
Doctor on Demand: Once you complete their questionnaire, the team of healthcare professionals on their panel match you with the right therapist. All services are in-network and come with many insurance plans.
Talkspace: This platform is best for those suffering from real-life issues like anxiety, depression or any type of addiction. Several leading insurance providers like Cigna and Alliant work with Talk space.
MdLive: With over 60 million members on its network, MDLIVE offers phone and video telehealth services to its users, mostly with same-day doctor appointments. Additionally, the platform is in-network with top insurance companies.
Which Insurance Plan is Better?
Medicare Part-B provides telehealth cover which includes psychotherapy, counseling, and any other medical or health-related service offered by a provider to a user based in a remote location.
The connection can either be through real-time video or audio technology. That said, while most Medicare plans cover telehealth, the coverage varies from state to state and plan.
Once you meet your Part B deductible, you need to pay for 20% of the cost, while Medicare takes care of the rest.
The US Center for Connected Health Policy cites that Medicaid covers in-person, and online individual and group therapy in every state except Iowa, so long as you have the medical prescription and diagnosis for the specific therapy.
What is not covered in Medicaid is career counseling, couple’s therapy, and coaching. Other types of therapies will depend on your plan.
Aetna has plans which include remote counseling or televideo as some people call it. For insurance coverage, you will need to work with an Aetna advocate and your primary healthcare doctor.
Cigna policies cover virtual care which includes online mental health care. They also cover services offered by Talkspace.
Does your Health Insurance Cover Online Therapy?
Cover for mental health services varies from provider to policy. However, the pressing issue is if your current health plan includes online mental health care or not?
A good place to start is to research the website of your insurance provider. This will indicate which online platforms your provider works with.
The next step is to make a phone call to a representative of your insurance company and confirm if online therapy is covered through your specific plan before connecting with an online therapist. If you are covered by an employee-sponsored plan, ask your HR department to handle it.
Find out which resources are available to you in your healthcare policy and ask clearly if telehealth visits are covered and what the copayments are.
Remember, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 requires insurers to frame the same financial requirements for mental health care and physical health care.
If your Insurance Policy doesn’t Cover Online Therapy, then what?
If your insurance company doesn’t cover online mental health coverage, you may explore other options:
- A sliding scale fee structure can make online therapy more affordable. The rates charged on this scale by the therapist depending on how much you earn. In other words, the less you bring home, the less you pay towards the cost of treatment.
- Get in touch with the mental health care center in your area and find out what they offer. They might offer financial assistance if you are a community member, or if not a more affordable form of therapy through workshops or group sessions.
- Some therapists offer free service, especially for virtual visits. You can try contacting therapists in your area to find out who is willing to extend free online therapy sessions for you.
- Many apps offer discounts and free trials. For example, eTherapyPro does not accept insurance but instead offers a three-day free trial which you can use to decide if online therapy is right for you.
- For free therapy options in your area, you can call the National Alliance on Mental Illness or email them at [email protected] to get connected to a mental health professional.
Ayesha completed her Doctor of Philosophy in Biochemistry and started her career as a College Lecturer in 2013. Today, she’s a happy mom of 2 Kids in the field of digital marketing. She loves reading books, spending time with her family, and making delicious food for her husband.