According to a report from Kaiser Health News, some of America’s most prominent names in health insurance are offering plans that encourage you to choose an online doctor as your first point-of-contact for most primary care and from there make referrals for patients.


Many insurers offering these types of plans hire outside firms who employ physicians who have licenses in several states, meaning they may not live near who they are speaking with. After the virtual appointment, patient referral information will be passed along to the physician. 


At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were not enough medical professionals around to meet demand. Many who could afford it couldn’t get appointments because they had insurance that didn’t cover visits. Now insurers are betting on this system being embraced by patients as an alternative form of treatment.


According to a study published in the AJMC, “weekly telemedicine visits for one insurer increased from a mean of 773 in 2020 prior to stay-at-home orders to 45,632 in subsequent weeks.” 


There are a variety of ways that telehealth plans can be obtained, from major players such as Kaiser Permanente. Some emphasize primary care but don’t require it to start online; others have consumer-focused policies, while others work exclusively with employers or companies looking for healthcare solutions at large scales.


However, skeptics note that many situations require in-person care. One recent study estimated about 66% of primary care visits needed it. For example, reflexes cannot be checked, and it’s challenging to examine tonsils for infection virtually.


When considering virtual-first plans, patients should look closely at not just premiums but also deductibles and copayments. With rules varying by state for healthcare, coverage laws can be confusing. Speak with a licensed professional today to discuss your options and which plan will suit your needs best.

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