Medically Reviewed By: Samantha Renner, MS, LMHC, NCC
Have you noticed that new commercials and advertising for the most prominent online therapy providers are now including references to health insurance coverage? For quite some time, it was a given that most online therapy and counseling services were cash-based. But that has changed, primarily prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
When you can’t attend in-person therapy sessions, then online accommodations are a must. So, if you now ask if online therapy is covered by insurance, the answer is no longer an automatic no.
The Bottom Line Up Front – Yes and No
Yes, and no, online therapy is covered by insurance. Confused? Don’t be; we’re going to explain what we mean.
Recent health insurance changes
Do you know that Blue Cross-Blue Shield changed its stance on coverage for online therapy in 2020? Or, the same year, some of the most prominent online therapy collectives announced the acceptance of health insurance?
While there was a slow and steady trend toward teletherapy for about a decade, the COVID-19 pandemic sped things up considerably. Instead of being one of two options, online therapy became the only one, while patients worldwide were on lockdown.
So, it’s understandable that many people would be readdressing the issue of insurance coverage for online therapy.
New online therapy insurance partnerships
The situation has changed by both the therapy providers and insurance companies. More online therapists or services are now accepting insurance, and healthcare providers embrace telehealth and teletherapy out of necessity.
Even so, not all online therapy is covered by insurance, or your plan may not include online mental health treatment. But it’s helpful to know that it’s now on the virtual table.
How Do I Know If My Insurance Covers Online Therapy?
You’ve got two routes to take if you’re wondering whether you’ve got insurance that’ll reduce your cost of online therapy.
- Your insurance provider
- Therapy website
Outpatient mental health
You could call or send a message to your insurance company. But you might already have the information right at your fingertips. Pull up your summary of benefits and look for “outpatient mental health” for details.
Alternatively, you could go right to the online therapy provider that you’re most interested in, as many of them have FAQs with detailed information on insurance acceptance.
Just like standard medical care, you’ll want to investigate the following:
- If the online therapy provider accepts health insurance and, if so, the specific companies and plans
- Your health insurance or government plan (Medicare, Medicaid) and individual coverage details
- Deductibles, co-pays, and the number of allowable sessions
Should I Use My Insurance for Online Therapy If It’s Covered?
It’s not a given that you should use your insurance benefits just because they cover online therapy. In some cases, you might save money as a cash-pay client.
That sounds a bit odd, but online therapy is deeply discounted compared to in-person therapy. It’s particularly evident if you reside in a major market where in-office sessions are in the $200 range.
So, why would you pass on insurance benefits?
- If you find an online therapy provider with lower cash-pay rates than using insurance at a competitor
- If you can take advantage of discounted therapeutic “package deals” that give you more benefits, like daily messaging with your therapist, not covered by health insurance
- If your EAP (employee assistance program) provides discounted online therapy that’s more cost-effective than insurance-provided services
Best Online Therapy Providers That Take Insurance
There are times when health insurance isn’t beneficial to online therapy sessions, but not always.
If you have a plan without a high deductible that quickly gets you to a small co-pay stage (like 15.00 a session), using your insurance benefits with a top-rated therapy site is an ideal mental health treatment strategy.
Fortunately, some of the best providers now supply online therapy covered by insurance.
Online Therapy Providers That Take Insurance
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For you: List of Online Therapy Companies that Take Insurance
How Do I Get Online Therapy Help If I Don’t Have Insurance?
Online therapy is a viable alternative to counseling or mental health treatment for both insured and uninsured clients.
Online therapy insurance isn’t a necessity
Aside from accessibility, affordability is another benefit of teletherapy. In some cases, you’ll come out ahead by paying out of pocket.
For example, one of the top online therapy providers that doesn’t accept insurance has an unlimited-session plan under $200 a month. Another package-based service combines virtual therapy sessions with ongoing messaging benefits for less than $60 per week.
If you’re looking for online therapy without insurance, you’re certainly not alone. Many full-service sites have developed their service and associated pricing with you in mind.
For you: How to Get Therapy Without Insurance
100% Free Therapy Options
If your budget for therapy hovers around the zero mark, then your choices are limited but not nonexistent.
It’s always preferable to have individual attention for a successful mental health treatment plan. However, if you don’t have the financial resources, you’re wise to consider some alternatives, so we’ve got a few free therapy tips and suggestions.
Free or sliding scale appointments – Reach out to a few in-person or online therapists and ask about a few free sessions. If they can’t accommodate free, they may have sliding scale fees that are the next best thing.
University psychology departments – Psychology or psychiatry students are required to put in some hours at a clinic. Students conducting the sessions aren’t new to the program and are supervised by instructors. So, they continue their training, as you benefit from free appointments, or “pay what you can” in most cases.
Churches and community centers – It’s not uncommon for churches to offer free counseling sessions. You might also be able to take advantage of some through community centers or local organizations.
Online therapy – self-guided programs – Free treatment started popping up during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the top therapy-based sites have materials available at no cost to patients. Some may even provide free chat rooms or messaging services.
Online support groups – If you search for your specific concern (anxiety, depression, etc.), you’ll find some discussion groups. Just keep in mind that they’re not typically monitored by a trained professional.
Employee Assistance Programs
Did you know that your employee assistance program may already have an online therapy partner?
Talkspace has been known to work with quite a few employers, large and small. So, you might be searching for online therapy covered by insurance when you don’t even need it, courtesy of your EAP.
You can check out the Talkspace site to see if your employer is listed. Alternatively, reach out to your human resources department. Even if they don’t currently have teletherapy benefits, your prompting could benefit you and your co-workers.