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FORBES: Most employers now pay for doctor visits via I-phone, tablet and PC

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“The growth we’re seeing at Teladoc is on all fronts; an increase in employers, members and telehealth visits,” Teladoc CEO Jason Gorevic said. “Even more significant is the growth in the number of telehealth visits we deliver, as we work with employers to actively promote the service. With proven quality, lower costs, and accessibility, telemedicine is indeed headed to be the norm.”

Bruce Japsen, Forbes, Contributor

OCTOBER 28, 2016 – Nearly 60% of the nation’s large employers now provide medical coverage for telemedicine , offering workers access to video consultations with physicians via smartphone, tablet or desktop computer.

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.

“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 +0.23%, Anthem WLP +% and UnitedHealth Group UNH +0.07% 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.”

Other telehealth vendors say, they, too are seeing unprecedented growth. “Five years ago, offering telehealth benefits was a novelty for payers and employers,” said Dr. Roy Schoenberg, CEO at American Well.

Telemedicine - chart from Mercer relase for BJapsen

Teladoc said it has more than 7,000 employer and health clients and in 2013 “it was about one-third of that,” the company said.

“The growth we’re seeing at Teladoc is on all fronts; an increase in employers, members and telehealth visits,” Teladoc CEO Jason Gorevic said. “Even more significant is the growth in the number of telehealth visits we deliver, as we work with employers to actively promote the service. With proven quality, lower costs, and accessibility, telemedicine is indeed headed to be the norm.”

SOURCE: http://www.forbes.com/sites/brucejapsen/2016/10/28/most-employers-now-cover-doctor-telemedicine-visits/#74b1474d2226

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