Living through the current COVID-19 emergency has proven difficult for many of us. Not only are we worried about our physical health and that of our families, but the stress of financial challenges and general uncertainty can make it hard to cope. You may have thought about getting online counseling to help sort things out — and if so, you’ve likely wondered if it’s covered by insurance.
The answer ultimately depends on your insurance company’s policies, but the good news is that state and federal governments have relaxed some restrictions in order to make it easier for providers to treat patients remotely, which could affect your coverage.
Below, we’ve put together some information that can help you find answers about insurance coverage for online counseling, a type of telehealth service.
Recently, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services made telehealth coverage possible for all doctor visits covered by Medicare during the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously, telehealth visits were only covered in certain cases, such as when the patient lived in a rural area and an in-person visit was impossible.
This expansion of coverage may or may not cover your online counseling visit. To find out more about Medicare therapy coverage, start by visiting Medicare’s telehealth coverage page. On it, they state: “Medicare telehealth services include office visits, psychotherapy, consultations, and certain other medical or health services that are provided by an eligible provider who isn’t at your location using an interactive 2-way telecommunications system (like real-time audio and video).” Although cost and coverage depends on the actual service, according to their site, “for most telehealth services, you’ll pay the same amount that you would if you got the services in person.”
The changing landscape
Federal and state governments have been constantly reviewing and updating their policies about health care coverage and telehealth services. When it comes to online counseling, coverage may largely depend on your state.
Currently, several states require commercial insurance plans and Medicaid programs to cover telehealth services the same as in-person visits. You may want to look up your state on this summary of state policies from the American Psychological Association (APA) as a starting point for your research.
Some states have also begun to allow online counseling over state lines. This is significant because previously, your provider would need to be licensed in the state you’re located in to administer therapy. However, due to COVID-19, your state may have changed its policy. This could make it more likely that your health insurance company would approve coverage of your telehealth therapy, as well as expand your options for providers. This resource from the Federation of State Medical Board can provide some initial information.
No doubt, it’s confusing — but the outlook is good
As you might have noticed by now, policies for insurance coverage for online counseling and other forms of telehealth are rapidly changing as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. While it’s impossible to predict coverage in every patient’s case, the quick and decisive response to the need for telehealth is encouraging.
The Center for Connected Health Policy has a helpful page that rounds up some of these policies state by state so you can get an idea of whether online counseling insurance coverage is possible in your situation. It summarizes state-related decisions during COVID-19 regarding telehealth — largely for physicians, but for mental health care providers, as well. Of course, the final answer regarding your online counseling coverage will need to come from your insurance company, directly.
At Orange County Health Psychologists, we’re dedicated to your care — especially at a time like this. Your psychological health is too critical to ignore, so we’re ready and willing to answer your questions when it comes to online counseling, including which insurance plans we accept.
To find out more, please call us at 949.528.6300 or send us an email at info@OCHealthPsych.com. If you’re ready, we can match you with a therapist from our team with specialized knowledge in your area of need.
—Written by Ekua Hagan for Orange County Health Psychologists