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Is Your Therapist Using Skype and Billing Your Insurance Illegally?
Many therapists are already using technology to extend their reach online, but aren’t being honest with the insurance companies about the location of the services they bill. Telehealth services, that is, online therapy, online counseling, Internet therapy, etherapy, webtherapy, Skype therapy – all these terms mean the same thing, and they typically require a special “qualifier” code when your insurance company is billed by your therapist. Otherwise, your therapist is billing them for “in-office” services — which online services clearly are not.
When mis-billed, such practice is technically known as insurance fraud, and a serious crime for which your therapist will be held responsible.
Of course, nothing will happen if you don’t get caught, much like speeding in your automobile. However, if you are complicit in fraud, and something goes wrong, you may be held responsible to some degree if you knew of the fraud. Make sure you know how your sessions are being billed to your insurance company, and double check to see if your therapist knows what they are doing both technically and with proper billing practices for the professional services they offer you.
Therapists can get a billing guide funded by the federal U.S. government by using the form in the upper right corner of this website: TeleMental Health Institute to get our newsletter. A free gift we give to professionals subscribing to the newsletter is an ebook called, “Telemedicine Reimbursement Handbook” and also available through CTEC.
What Else Can You Do?
Check with your insurance company. Just call them anonymously and ask if they pay for the specific type of technology your therapist is using, be it email, chat, video, telephone or anything else.
TIP: if your insurance hasn’t traditionally paid for telephone based services, they most likely won’t pay for Skype or other non-HIPAA-compliant video services online, either.
The next step for you of course, is to send you insurance company a letter and voice your strong objection to their rejection of services that make access to mental health more possible for you. In fact, 12 states mandate paymentby insurance companies for telehealth. They just seem to be dragging their feet. Consumer complaints will make all the difference
Please post your questions or comments below!
Marlene M. Maheu, Ph.D. is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the SelfhelpMagazine since 1994. She is also the Executive Director of the TeleMental Health Institute, Inc., offering a Certificate training program in TeleMental Health for telepsychiatry, telepsychology, telesocial work, and online counseling or online therapy. Academic books authored by Dr. Maheu and colleagues include eHealth, Telehealth and Telemedicine and The Mental Health Professional & the New Technologies.