Health insurer UnitedHealthcare has announced that it is expanding coverage options for virtual physician visits.
The expanded coverage will give people enrolled in self-funded employer health plans secure, online access to a physician via mobile phone, tablet or computer 24 hours a day, UnitedHealthcare officials say. A new network of care providers offering video-based virtual visits enables UnitedHealthcare plan participants across the country to choose from in-network virtual care provider groups, then see and speak with a doctor using real-time audio and video technology to obtain a diagnosis and any necessary prescriptions for minor medical needs including allergies, sinus and bladder infections, bronchitis and other conditions.
Coverage for virtual care provider visits is now available to self-funded employer customers and will expand to UnitedHealthcare employer-sponsored and individual plan participants in 2016, giving more people expanded in-network care options, the company announced. To make this happen, UnitedHealthcare is partnering with Doctor On Demand, Optum’s NowClinic and American Well’s Amwell to provide video-based virtual visits in 47 states and Washington, D.C.
More than 10 million consumers directly benefited from using telemedicine last year, according to the American Telemedicine Association, and a recent Harris Poll survey found that more than a quarter of consumers (27 percent) would choose a telehealth visit if the option was available to them.
People can access a list of participating virtual-visit care providers through UnitedHealthcare’s Health4Me mobile app. From the “Find and Price Care” page, Health4Me users can review the in-network provider groups and the cost of a virtual visit with each contracted provider group. From there, users can connect directly to the provider group of their choice.
The cost of a video-based virtual visit is less than $50 and provides significant savings when compared to costs for similar minor medical needs treated at a doctor’s office ($80), urgent care facility ($160) or emergency room ($650). UnitedHealthcare plan participants pay a portion of the cost for the virtual visit, subject to deductibles, copays and out-of-pocket expenses based on their specific benefit plan, officials say.