Coronavirus (Covid 19) and telemedicine: Will my insurance still cover my appointments?

Filed Under: Costs, Health plans, Patients

Doctor patient telehealth appointment
- photo by Anna Shvets via Pexels.com

Many of the country’s insurers are bringing back patient fees for telemedicine visits after waiving them for several months because of the coronavirus crisis. But how much you’ll have to pay and when you’ll have to pay it depends on which plan you have.

Throughout the pandemic, insurance companies have varied widely on what they require patients to pay for telehealth in the form of copays, coinsurance and payments toward a deductible. Insurers are resuming these on their own timelines, leaving many patients wondering what they will owe the next time they see their doctor.

To find out for sure what you can expect to pay for a telehealth visit, contact your plan’s customer service representatives. In the meantime, we took a look at the telemedicine policies for some of the biggest health insurers to help you narrow down what your next appointment might cost you.

The insurance companies ClearHealthCosts talked to said their telehealth payment policies apply to their fully-funded commercial plans. Most members with Medicaid or self-funded plans will have to check with their individual plans or employers to find out what is covered. They also told us they will continue to waive payments for telehealth for their members with Medicare Advantage plans through the end of the year.

Copays, coinsurance and deductibles were never waived for traditional Medicare, however some providers chose not to charge their patients these fees during the coronavirus pandemic, said Medicare expert Juliette Cubanski. Contact your doctor to find out what you’ll pay as a Medicare enrollee.

Anthem

Anthem resumed charging patients co-pays, coinsurance and deductibles for most telehealth appointments on Oct. 1, but a representative told ClearHealthCosts the company will waive these payments for Covid treatments through Dec. 31 for both telehealth and in-person visits.

United Healthcare

Like Anthem, United Healthcare has already resumed charging patients co-pays, co-insurance and deductibles for telehealth services not related to Covid. Starting October 22, members will have to pay those costs for Covid-related telemedicine as well.

Cigna

Cigna will waive cost-sharing for telemedicine through Oct. 31. A Cigna representative told ClearHealthCosts that the company is regularly evaluating extensions of waiver policies.

Aetna

Aetna members are already paying copays, co-insurance and deductibles for most appointments, but a representative told ClearHealthCosts there are a few exceptions.

Aetna is waiving payments for telehealth visits related to Covid diagnosis and treatment. The company is also waiving co-pays, co-insurance and deductibles for in-network telemedicine visits for outpatient behavioral and mental health counseling services through the end of the year.

Humana

Humana is still waiving copays, co-insurance and deductibles for all telehealth visits and will continue to do so through the end of 2020. A representative told ClearHealthCosts that Humana is waiving these fees even for members with Medicaid plans.

What you can do

In every case, you should check with your insurance company and with the doctor or other provider to understand in advance what the payment policy will be. Remember, it’s not only “Blue Cross does this” but “under my policy, Super Supreme Bronze Blue Cross EPO, through my self-insured employer, the company does this.” Yes, it’s complicated.

An insurance industry trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, is keeping a running list of insurers’ responses to Covid. You can find it here. Pro tip: This is not binding. It is directional, not definitive. Nothing in here is guaranteed to be up to date or guaranteed as policy in the case of your insurance company.

Always ask upfront, if you can: How much will this cost me, on my insurance? What’s the cash price? Here are tips on how to find out what stuff costs in health care.