Telehealth therapy is becoming increasingly popular, according to a nationwide poll conducted by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). The ease of getting online therapy, the convenience of choosing when and where to attend sessions, and the large number of available providers can all be strong incentives for receiving your mental health care online.
Cost may be another significant factor in many people’s healthcare decisions. With finances in mind, you may be wondering if your health insurance covers online therapy.
This article will address your options for affordable mental health care through teletherapy and outline situations where insurance may be able to help cover the cost.
Using Insurance For Telehealth Therapy
By law, an insurance provider cannot discriminate against you for seeking mental health care. Due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA), a health insurance company like Blue Cross, Blue Shield is required to cover care for mental health services the same way they cover care for physical health services. The ACA and MHPAEA require all employer-sponsored health insurance plans, public health insurance plans offered through the federal health insurance marketplace, insurance offered under the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP), and many forms of Medicaid to cover mental health care. Some of these plans may also cover services like medication management.
If you have health insurance under one of the major insurers in the United States (i.e., Blue Cross Blue Shield, Regence, Cigna, Humana, Aetna, Anthem, Kaiser Permanente, Molina, Bright Health, United Healthcare, etc.), your insurer will most likely comply with the ACA and MHPAEA. However, contact your insurance plan or check your policy documents to see which therapists in your network accept insurance for therapy sessions online.
Most insurance companies provide an online search tool for the purpose of reviewing providers whose services they cover, including mental health providers. You can use this tool to look up therapists and counselors who may provide therapy services online. Many therapists are moving to fully online delivery. Others provide hybrid services, working with some of their clients online and others via traditional in-person therapy. This can be helpful in cases where in-person therapy is preferable such as those requiring medication management, for instance.
In these cases, you may be able to cover online therapy costs using your insurance. It can be important to double-check that a provider takes insurance from your insurance company for therapy. You may want to call your insurance provider to confirm before beginning sessions with a therapist.
Are Online Therapy Platforms Covered?
If you are considering an online therapy platform, it may be helpful to know that such online therapy providers typically do not accept insurance. You will likely be unable to find online therapy that accepts insurance unless you follow the process of finding a specific provider as outlined above. Online therapy platforms must consider a variety of licensing and liability laws pertaining to delivering online mental health care, and as a result, many of them do not engage with the health insurance process.
If your health insurance plan offers reimbursement for mental health services with licensed therapists, you may be able to find indirect coverage for therapy through services like BetterHelp. You can submit a claim yourself, not through the online mental health care provider, for the costs you have incurred. Your insurance plan may then reimburse you for all or some of the costs. Again, you might want to confirm this with your insurance plan before assuming that your expenses will be covered.
What About Health Savings Accounts?
If you have a health savings account, a flexible spending account, or a health reimbursement arrangement, you may be able to pay for online therapy services using those plans. It can be helpful to understand the difference between the three:
- A health savings account (HSA) is a type of savings account that anyone can open, regardless of their employment status. Any money deposited into the account up to a certain contribution limit is pre-tax, so using an HSA may also help to lower your tax bill. The money can be used only on qualified health care expenses, including deductibles, copayments, coinsurance, and other expenses.
- A flexible spending account (FSA), sometimes referred to as a flexible spending arrangement, is a type of savings account that is set up through a person’s employer. It is essentially the same thing as an HSA in that it is a pre-tax savings account for healthcare expenses. However, with an FSA, spending may be more “flexible”, meaning you may be able to use the money in the account for even more healthcare-related expenses. This could include prescription drugs, medical devices, and even over-the-counter health supplies like sunscreen or cough medicine, for example.
- A health reimbursement arrangement (HRA), also referred to as a health reimbursement account, is another option for health care expenses funded by an employer. In the case of an HRA, an employer provides a group health plan where employee medical expenses may not be covered up front, but employees are reimbursed on a tax-free basis for qualified medical expenses up to a certain dollar amount every plan year.
HSAs, FSAs, and HRAs all allow payments for qualified medical expenses, which may include an online therapy service. It can be worthwhile to double-check with the terms of your bank (for an HSA) or employer (for an FSA/HRA) to make sure you know what is and isn’t covered. Still, HSAs, FSAs, and HRAs may be one way to lower payment costs associated with an online therapy provider.
Getting And Paying For Telehealth Therapy
Given the many documented benefits of online therapy, you might be interested in finding out ways you can get treatment that is covered by insurance. Although therapy provided through large online therapy platforms such as BetterHelp is typically not covered by insurance, you may be able to find reimbursement for some or all your mental health care costs through an insurance reimbursement plan. You could also use money from an HSA, FSA, or HRA to offset therapy costs.
If teletherapy with a board-certified therapist is something that interests you, you can connect with a licensed counselor through an online platform like BetterHelp for online therapy. With online therapy, you can speak with your therapist through video chats, phone calls, or in-app messaging, according to your preference. You can also meet with them from anywhere you have an internet connection, including your own home. The convenience and ease which often accompanies online therapy may make it an appealing option for a wide range of clients seeking the best online therapy options.
The Efficacy Of Online Therapy
Research has demonstrated that online mental health care can be just as effective as therapy got in a traditional, in-person format. One study found that online delivery of therapy for patients experiencing depression, one of the most common mental health conditions, had the effect of reducing their symptoms and improving their overall quality of life.
Although you may not be able to use insurance to pay for online therapy, services through platforms such as BetterHelp are sometimes even more cost-effective than paying insurance copays for in-person therapy appointments. If you are hoping to get mental health care at an affordable rate, online therapy may be a good option.
Still, these online services may be more affordable than other forms of therapeutic treatment. Whether you choose to get care virtually or in person, it can be vital to receive the support you need to promote more positive mental well-being in your life. Connect with a BetterHelp counselor today to begin your therapeutic journey.
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