PARKER, Colo. — A Parker man who has health insurance was shocked recently when he opened a bill a received from his doctor for a telehealth consultation.
Dustin Stewart had scheduled an in-person doctor's appointment to meet his new primary care physician and review his medical history. Just before the appointment, Stewart was exposed to COVID-19, so he called the office to reschedule.
Stewart said when he called to make a new appointment, the office offered a telehealth visit for the original day and time.
"I said, that's fine. As long as it doesn't change the structure of how I’m billed. My insurance is a copay. And they said 'nope, you should be just fine,'" Stewart remembered.
Stewart said his copay is normally $20. However, after his telehealth visit, he was charged more than $300.
“I laughed because I thought, 'oh, well, there must be a mistake,'" said Stewart. “My doctor is a great doctor, but that would equate to around $600 the worth of a telephone call.”
He said he called his insurance company, doctor's office, and the billing department of the office. He was told the bill was reviewed, and that it was correct. Stewart does not understand how that is possible.
“I don't think there was a proper review of how did the bill get to be this number on either my care provider side or the billing department side," Stewart said.
Stewart is paying off the bill using a payment plan but is worried this situation is not unique to his personal experience.
“I can only imagine that I must be a fraction of the population this has happened to, and I know that there are other people in tough circumstances that this could majorly affect their lives," said Stewart.
According to the National Telehealth Policy Resource Center, in Colorado, an insurance provider is not required to pay for consultation via telehealth. However, “a carrier shall not restrict or deny coverage solely because the service is provided through telehealth,” the policy states.
Those with UCHealth said they are not affiliated with the bill, and said the bill is from CU Medicine.
CU Medicine sent the following statement:
The UCHealth Primary Care Lone Tree facility is owned and operated by University of Colorado Hospital, which is part of UCHealth. This facility is classified as a hospital outpatient department and patient visits must be billed as outpatient hospital visits, whether the visit is conducted in-person or via telehealth. Health insurance benefit structures often vary by service and/or location.
We are unable to address any patient-specific health or benefit information because it would be a violation of privacy rights protected by HIPAA.
Given that health insurance benefit structures can vary by service, location, and often whether a patient is seen in-person or via telehealth, we’re not able to provide any further statements at this time.
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