UnitedHealthcare has announced that it will now cover video visits from Doctor On Demand, American Well's AmWell, and its own Optum's NowClinic, which is a white-labeled American Well offering. The insurance company pointed out that the average price of a video visit is less than $50, and as part of its coverage for the service its members will still be responsible for a portion of that fee depending on the deductibles, copays and out-of-pocket expenses associated with their specific benefit plan.
The payor pointed to the growing lack of providers in the US, according to the American Association of Medical Colleges, there's a shortage of 45,000 primary care physicians. United said it's especially a problem for those in rural areas, which is where 25 percent of the country's population resides. This group of people have limited access to healthcare, especially subspecialty care.
“UnitedHealthcare is developing innovative telemedicine solutions that enable consumers, especially people who live in rural areas of the country, to access quality, cost-effective health care, whether at home or on the go,” UnitedHealthcare CEO of the Commercial Group business Jeff Alter said in a statement. “Consumers can save time and money choosing among quality physician groups from the convenience of their smartphone, tablet or home computer at any time of the day.”
All three offerings allow patients to schedule a video visit via mobile device or desktop with physicians who can discuss and send prescriptions for a wide range of conditions including bronchitis, cough, sinus infection, sore throat, UTIs, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, pinkeye, and flu. Coverage for video visits is currently just available for self-funded employer customers, but UnitedHealthcare said it would cover employer-sponsored and individual plan participants in 2016.
A United spokesperson told MobiHealthNews in an email that they chose cover video visits from a couple of remote visit service providers to give their members more choice when they seek virtual care.
Together the three services reach 47 states and Washington, D.C. UnitedHealthcare members can find a list of participating video visits care providers through UnitedHealthcare’s Health4Me smartphone app -- it is available on the “Find and Price Care” page. App users will not only be able to browse the provider groups, they will also be able to view the cost of a virtual visit with each contracted provider group.
Earlier this week, Doctor On Demand announced that MultiCare Health System would offer the company's video visits service to Washington-based patients. The new service is co-branded as MultiCare Doctor On Demand, and allows anyone in the state of Washington to communicate with a physician about different medical issues.