Some Insurers End Pandemic Waivers of Fees and Deductibles for Telehealth
The coronavirus outbreaks had prompted the nation’s largest insurers to stop charging co-pays or requiring deductibles for virtual visits, but some consumers will now have to pay those fees again.
By Reed Abelson
Some people will have to start paying more out of their own pockets for telemedicine appointments, if their virtual visits with doctors are unrelated to Covid-19 and are needed to monitor conditions like diabetes or to check out sudden knee pain.
Two of the largest health insurers, Anthem and UnitedHealthcare, are no longer waiving co-payments and deductibles for some customers beginning on Oct. 1. People who have been relying on telehealth to steer clear of the emergency room or a doctor’s office during the coronavirus pandemic will need to check with their insurers to see how much they will now owe for a virtual visit.
Just how much people who paid nothing before will now have to pay will vary widely, depending on the type of visit and the details of their insurance policy. But you might have the same $25 co-payment to see your doctor over video as you do when you go to the office, and you could even be on the hook for the cost of the entire visit if you have not yet met your deductible.
While a virtual visit is likely to be much cheaper than going to an emergency room, you could end up paying anywhere from $55 to $92, the average cost of a lengthy telemedicine visit within your plan’s network, according to an analysis of insurance claims by FAIR Health, a nonprofit group.
The changes in insurance policy were first reported by STAT news.
In the early months of the coronavirus crisis, the federal Medicare program and private health insurance companies wanted to encourage people to use alternatives to in-person care by talking with a doctor over video or by telephone. They relaxed many of the rules for seeking virtual care, and many waived the co-payments that would normally be charged for those appointments.
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