We all thought quietly to ourselves: “COVID is going to destroy the world.” I disagree. I feel that after this is all over, we will feel as if we are more in touch with technology. And the health care industry agrees with me. With what was once called “telehealth,” or when you consult with your doctor about a pressing issue, we all felt weirded out about it. Now, ask yourself: have you attended a doctor’s appointment remotely? If so, you have engaged in telehealth! And that is the future of health care, and health insurance.
“We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the foundation we are building for telehealth literally within the last two and a half months,” said James Roxburgh, of whom is CEO for Banner Telehealth (link). It seems that now, the game is all about online visits, but what comes with this is a change in healthcare infrastructure. The insurance market is going to have to adapt accordingly, and that seems to be where the trouble is.
Will insurance cover telemedicine?
The good news is yes! Though this was not once the case, and may not be a factor at the present moment, the Federal Government has passed on telehealth coverage to Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance companies. However, because this new way of doing things is so new, it may take a few months for people to adapt. According to an August 2020 discussion panel, many are still in flux with telehealth. It is amazing to see that many are actually cancelling their policies in an effort to avoid being exposed.
But we have to learn to embrace change.
Telemedicine or “telehealth” is basically what we have all been doing for the past six months: visiting with doctors or physicians virtually via FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, or any other means where there is a camera and a microphone involved. However, studies show that 76 percent would much rather risk obtaining the coronavirus than use technology to their advantage. Another source pointed out that many of the elderly cannot quite grasp the technological requirements to engage in this manner of working.
My mother was one such case. She had me tell her how to see her doctor virtually. Turns out it was rather chaotic: a website that exists provides telehealth, yes, but they did not use Zoom or a phone visit. Rather, they required a separate website that required a registration, almost as if this telehealth movement – specifically since the pandemic – has become a monopoly. Doc.me, ZoomDoc.com, and others are doing nothing different than utilizing a platform such as Zoom and, instead, requiring a much more corporate outlook on things. In other words, they are there for no reason other than that of the doctor, as many choose FaceTime or Zoom (of which even my mom could not use, either).
What do we do from here?
Well, the first step seems to be less focalized around learning to adapt to telehealth, as that was already done for us. Instead, it is about educating Americans how to use these various methods of online visitations without having to rely on me to do it! In other words, we need to be focusing around educating the masses two fundamental challenges: 1) that telehealth is not going away, even after the pandemic ends, and 2) that it is time to embrace this new method of things, as it is a much better alternative.
When you think about it, since telehealth truly formed around 2016, it has had a slow gain in progress. Now, it is everything we have! We cannot go to the doctor because we will infect the patients; we will be exposed to the virus in closed quarters…so on, so forth. Okay, well that is inevitable. Let us focus on the positive: telehealth is ten times less expensive than paying overhead on an office, meaning the doctors in question can actually charge you less each visit because they are sitting in a living room!
Health insurance plans will develop for this new methodology, but we have to be patient and accept that healthcare has changed and, just like how the pacemaker used technology to keep us alive in the event of a heart problem, telehealth is doing a similar thing here. We just need to accept that our lives – from now and until the next pandemic – will be virtualized. It leaves me wondering if we are even ready for this.
Either way, it is time to start educating individuals on how to use the right platforms, and how it benefits more than it hinders. A lot of people feel it is impersonable, and that is okay. Doctors are still helping as much as they can, despite the circumstances. It is time to adapt to the future, and hopefully health insurance plans will begin to do so as well. In fact, we may be adopting a merger with a local company dedicated to teaching us about the benefits of telehealth, as well as how to use it properly (contact me).
Also, considering state laws require insurers to accommodate during the pandemic, we can use this time with telehealth to practice, adapt, and adjust. Soon it will be just as expensive as it was with in-office visits, and yes, you may have to pay a higher premium to go through telehealth platforms at present, but make note that this is not the doctor overcharging you. Rather, it is insurance plans that are trying to keep up so you can only pay a copay and thus, they would inevitably cover you if they had the upcoming policies. Stay strong, stay safe, and remain vigilant. This is not going anywhere soon!