The world is becoming increasingly reliant on digital solutions to replace traditional, “real world” alternatives, and mental health services are no different. As more clients turn to teletherapy solutions in place of in-person counseling, insurance companies are left with no alternative other adjusting to this trend. Some platforms are already accepting insurance, while others are opting for just making their platforms more affordable rather than having to deal with the requirements dictated by insurance providers.
Why Are People Trying Out Therapy Online?
The ability to meet with their patients electronically provides ample benefits to both the patient and the clinician. The primary benefit of signing up for online therapy services is the convenience of meeting a therapist from anywhere. This might be your desk at work or a favorite spot at home. No matter where you decide to conduct an appointment, it’s usually far more comfortable than a therapist’s office, creating an environment more suitable for dialogue.
Another positive of getting therapy online is that it can help therapists better meet the demand for care. By offering remote sessions, they are able to schedule appointments around the busy schedules of their patients and fill their days with more sessions.
Lastly, with online appointments allowing therapists to better fill their calendars, they are often able to offer discounts to those that need them. As with so many digital versions of in-person services, better time efficiency typically helps save money for end users.
How Can You Try Out Online Therapy?
For someone who is looking to get therapy during this era of social distancing – or simply prefers receiving counseling at home – there are quite a few options. In the case of people who already see a counselor in person, their clinician may also provide their services online. This is an easy solution for someone who is in therapy and wants to continue to see their counselor, because now they can just video chat with their therapist and continue their sessions as usual. Most therapists will conduct sessions via Skype, Facetime or some other popular platform, though more are using online tools that have been custom-made for therapists and include the security features required by regulators.
For those who cannot connect with their local therapist online, there are online platforms that provide the care you want and need. In fact, web therapy can be very helpful, with some companies offering very attractive pricing and easy to use apps, including industry leaders such as BetterHelp, Talkspace and Amwell.
These platforms offer their own take on how online psychotherapy should be conducted, all the while allowing users to receive help on-demand. The companies work to match users with a therapist that is suitable for their individual needs and then it’s off to the races.
However, when considering online counseling, it’s worthwhile to first understand if payment for these services will be covered by health insurance.
Does Insurance Pay for Online Therapy?
This is a highly nuanced question that depends on several factors — and it’s not as straightforward as simply knowing which company one is insured by. Such factors include location, type of coverage, and who the therapist is.
For example, if a person has been seeing a therapist face-to-face that was covered by insurance, and then only switched to online therapy when social distancing guidelines were put into place, then those sessions will likely continue to covered by insurance. When if comes starting out with a new therapist via remote sessions, the coverage varies depending on the individual carrier.
The online therapy platforms themselves also differ when it comes to insurance coverage. Most are not covered at all, and when they are, coverage is typically very limited. Talkspace, on the other hand, partners with several US health plans to provide online therapy to employees through employee assistance programs and behavior health benefits. While this may not be applicable to those that do not have access to these programs through their employers, for those that do, it can result in significant savings.
There are some platforms that do accept some insurances. Most notably, Amwell accepts some insurances plans, while MDLive accepts most. It should be stated however, that these teletherapy providers are more expensive than those that do not accept insurance at all. So, if you only receive partial coverage of your therapy sessions from your insurance company, it may come out to a similar price as what you’d pay through providers that do not accept insurance.
Before beginning counseling, it is worthwhile to check and see if sessions will be covered by one’s insurance provider. If not, the provider may be able to assist in finding a therapist that does fall under you plan. Regardless of how it’s paid for, those in need of counseling should make every effort to see a therapist with the same urgency they would any other health professional.