Therapy On A Virtual Couch

February 28, 2017

Telemedicine is experiencing a surge in popularity among employers for faster, more convenient, and less expensive diagnosis and treatment of illnesses that can be effectively handled remotely. Increasingly, these conditions include behavioral health issues such as depression or anxiety.

In 2016, 68% of employers offered their employees telemedicine consultations with health care providers as an alternative to in-person visits, a number that could grow to 90% by 2018, according to the 2016 Willis Towers Watson Emerging Trends in Health Care Survey. In addition, as reported in a recent Money Magazine article, more states are requiring insurers to cover telemedicine.

Interviewed for the Money article on the topic of telemedicine mental health treatments, Dr. Allan Khoury, an MD, PhD and senior health care consultant with Willis Towers Watson, said, “Virtual therapy can be as effective as traditional therapy.”

Dr. Khoury noted that this is especially true for people who don’t live nearby a psychiatrist or therapist or don’t want to be seen walking into the offices of a mental health services provider because of concerns about privacy or social stigma.

At the same time, because easy to access sometimes means easy to ignore, Dr. Khoury advised patients not to rely solely on virtual therapy if they’d be more likely to follow through on an expert’s advice if they met in person.

To read the entire article in Money Magazine, click here.

To help employees cope with rising out-of-pocket medical expenses, a growing number of employers are offering employees gap insurance. Gap insurance is supplemental insurance that covers the difference between what a core medical insurance plan pays for services and the contribution a policyholder is expected to make. Common examples of gap insurance include coverage for hospital stays, accidents, and critical care for major illnesses.

Unlike core medical plans, employers tend to offer gap insurance as voluntary insurance, meaning that employees pay for it themselves, although often at a discount negotiated by their employer.

Another difference is that gap insurance is not constrained by the rules covering core medical coverage. This means, for example, that individuals with pre-existing conditions can be excluded from coverage. However, in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal on the growing popularity of gap insurance, Amy Hollis, a senior consultant for Willis Towers Watson who leads the voluntary benefits practice for the company, pointed out that many providers will remove this provision for an employer.

As an alternative to gap insurance, Hollis also said that some employees might be better off putting money into a tax-advantaged health savings account and using those funds to pay out-of-pocket expenses. But for employees with a low tolerance for risk or who have access to plans that are relatively inexpensive, gap coverage could make sense.

To read the entire article in the Wall Street Journal, click here.