What would you do if you experienced coronavirus symptoms?

Coronavirus (COVID-19) has changed our way of life, seemingly overnight. It’s changed how we work, how we play, and even how we access healthcare. “Social distancing” is the new norm, at least for now.

If you had flu-like symptoms in December, you probably would have gone to urgent care without much hesitation. How about if you have flu-like symptoms today? There’s a good chance your answer is different (or you at least took a bit longer to think about it). If you’re like many people, you’re hesitant to go to the grocery store, much less urgent care or even your primary care physician. But you also know how serious the coronavirus can be, so seeking medical attention is a wise choice. In some respects, telemedicine was created for just this type of situation, and it’s changing healthcare now more than ever.

Last year,  I posted the blog “How Telemedicine is Changing Healthcare,” which reviews how exactly telemedicine works. It allows healthcare providers to evaluate, diagnose, and treat patients over the phone or through video conferencing. Typically, the cost is $10 to $50 per call, but that has changed with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) recently announced a new emergency regulation requiring New York State insurance companies to waive cost sharing, including deductibles, copays, or coinsurance, for in-network telehealth visits. The New York State Department of Health Commissioner said, “With the COVID-19 pandemic spreading throughout our state, a simple act like going to a doctor’s office may inadvertently expose you or others to the virus. Governor Cuomo’s latest expansion of telemedicine in New York State, requiring health insurance companies to waive cost sharing for in-network telehealth visits, will help us better address this rapidly evolving public health emergency and improve access to healthcare.”

Many major insurance companies are working to improve their telehealth capabilities:

MVP Health Care recently announced virtual emergency room telemedicine services, myERnow. Powered by United Concierge Medicine (UCM), it allows MVP members to connect with emergency providers to assess the need for COVID-19 testing. If testing is determined to be appropriate and available, UCM will coordinate with local health departments and health care providers and prescribe testing at an appropriate facility. myERnow can be accessed at mvphealthcare.com/myERnow or 800-TALK-MVP.

Aetna, one of the nation’s largest health insurance companies, partners with Teledoc. Aetna began waiving telemedicine fees in advance of the NY mandate. Teledoc for Aetna members is at Teladoc.com/aetna-share or by calling 855-835-2362. Additionally, cost sharing will be waived for real-time virtual visits offered by in-network providers.

Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield partners with MDLIVE, which can be accessed at excellusbcbs.com/find-a-doctor/telemedicine, through the MDLIVE app, by texting EXCELLUS to 635483, or by calling 866-692-5045.

Please Note: Telehealth providers are experiencing unprecedented volumes. While you may experience longer than usual wait times, it is still a safe efficient way to address many non-emergencies.