The number of such employers now covering telemedicine has jumped from about 30% last year as companies see an opportunity to save money and give quicker access to medical care, according to the Mercer National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans. The analysis, which comes amid the annual employer fall open enrollment period, draws from a sample of more than 2,500 companies with at least 10 employees.
The telemedicine consultation between physician and patient costs around $40 compared to an in-person office visit that can cost $125. Though coverage varies widely, Mercer data shows 75% of employers that offer telemedicine share the cost of the visit with their workers through a co-pay of generally around $25.
Companies like American Well are growing rapidly, providing telemedicine services to health plans, employers and physicians.
“When an employer offers telemedicine, it means a phone/video consultation with a provider is a covered service,” says Beth Umland, director of research for health and benefits at Mercer, a subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies. ”If the plan member uses telemedicine before the deductible is met, he or she will likely pay the full cost.”
Most major insurance carriers including Aetna AET +0.06%, Anthem WLP +0% and UnitedHealth Group UNH +0.41% provide access to a telehealth vendor for traditional medical care. Increasingly, mental health services are also being offered by insurers and employers, telemedicine companies say.
It’s been a boon to companies like MDLive, American Well and Teladoc that offer the telehealth platform to insurers and employers.
“We are seeing MDLIVE’s health plan and employer customers fully embrace virtual care for both medical and behavioral health, as a means to help bend the health and wellness cost curve,” MDLIVE chief executive officer Randy Parker said. “The number of lives that can access our (MDLIVE) telehealth service through their health plan and employer benefit for 2017 has more than doubled to over 22 million for the 2017 plan year.”
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