UnitedHealthcare Announces Expanded Coverage Options for Virtual Physician Visits

UnitedHealthcare is expanding coverage options for virtual physician visits, according to an April 30, 2015 news release. It will now provide people in self-funded employer health plans secure, online access to a physician via mobile phone, tablet, or computer 24 hours a day.

The insurer has highlighted the following components of the announced telemedicine expansion:

  • Partnership with Doctor On Demand, Optum’s NowClinic® and American Well offers virtual visits for UnitedHealthcare plan participants in 47 states and Washington, D.C.
  • Expanded choice from a network of virtual-care physicians
  • Virtual visits covered as an in-network benefit
  • Available to self-funded employer customers now; expanding to additional employer-sponsored and individual plan participants in 2016

The cost of UnitedHealthcare’s video-based virtual visits is less than $50. Plan participants pay a portion of that cost subject to deductibles, copays, and out-of-pocket expenses which will vary based upon their specific benefit plan.

A list of participating virtual visit providers can be found via UnitedHealthcare’s Health4Me™ mobile app and via its member portal at www.myuhc.com.

Telemedicine a Priority for PAMED and Its Member Physicians

UnitedHealthcare’s announcement is a step in the right direction toward eliminating the current barriers to telemedicine expansion. However, there is still much work to be done to ensure that Pennsylvanians, particularly those in underserved areas, have access to the care they need.

Telemedicine is one of PAMED’s legislative priorities for 2015. A Telehealth Task Force created by PAMED is currently looking at barriers to telemedicine from a physician perspective and advising PAMED on potential legislative fixes to those barriers.

PAMED Past President Marilyn Heine, MD, chairs the task force, and task force members include representatives from number of specialist and primary care physicians nominated by their state specialty society.

The Telehealth Task Force has been charged to:

  • Adopt a standard definition of what constitutes telemedicine
  • Identify standards for coverage and payment
  • Establish policy for the licensure of providers performing telehealth

Ongoing meetings by the Task Force have enabled PAMED to draft legislation based on American Medical Association (AMA) model bills, PAMED and AMA policy, and other state statutes related to telehealth.

The Task Force last met on May 6 to update its draft legislation based on comments received from counties, specialties, and the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania. The draft legislation will be going to the PAMED Board for its review and action during its meeting on May 19.

Be sure to watch for telemedicine updates in PAMED’s Daily Dose all-member email.

Other PAMED resources

  • Video update on PAMED’s legislative efforts regarding telemedicine (2015)
  • A Member’s Perspective on Telehealth (2015)
  • AMA Telemedicine Policy (2014)