If you’ve seen the news at all, the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic is entering a new stage of global and national spread. The outbreak has generated a frenzy of activity, with schools closing, businesses changing their hours and business practices, or laying off employees. People with insurance may no longer have it. People without insurance or a way to afford quality medical care may feel like they are between a rock and a hard place. How do they get affordable medical advice? Telehealth can be the answer. Telehealth, or communicating via phone or video with healthcare providers, offers the unique capacity for remote screening and even treatment, and is looked at as a powerful tool for reducing transmission of the disease.

If you’re a gig worker, you are undoubtedly coming in contact with a lot of people, even if you’re trying to practice social distancing. Uber and Lyft drivers are still working, and unfortunately, have the opportunity transmit the virus. Freelancers that often work from home are in a safer place. Small business owners, such as barbers , hair stylists, florists etc…also want to deliver services and yet be safe. These workers may get the virus, and not show any symptoms. If you start getting symptoms, what are the next steps?

Patients who are not significantly ill should not go to a physician’s office, clinic, ER or the hospital. Often, a simple phone call will do, and monitoring of the patients vital signs should be closely watched. Still, patients continue to have needs, and chronic diseases must be managed. With enhanced technology, many devices now dial-in automatically, and add additional touch-points for patient-physician interactions. Many physicians are turning to telemedicine for non-urgent visits.

Telemedicine began to get more popular in the last decade. Initially, Telehealth was used as a way to reach patients in rural or remote locations, where normal doctor visits are difficult. Telehealth was thus born out of necessity. Today, insurance companies see telemedicine as a way to save money and reduce the impact of patients on the overall healthcare system. According to a recent survey by American Well, physician use of telemedicine services has increased 340% between 2015 and 2018- 22% of doctors used it in 2018, up from 5% in 2015.

In fact, 34 states and Washington, D.C., now have laws mandating that private insurers cover telemedicine services in the same manner that they cover in-person services. With this push, patients are now more open to Telehealth visits. According to a 2017 survey, 77% of patients would consider seeing a physician virtually. With the coronavirus crisis in full swing, the demand is only going to increase further.

“There may be no better time to embrace Telehealth than today.”

While the coronavirus rapidly spreads throughout the country and the globe, social distancing seems to be the new standard for mitigating its impact. Social distancing in conjunction with Telehealth is a good way to reduce interactions, and a real opportunity for medicine to embrace telemedicine and remote monitoring. We can do so much more for our patients and put ourselves, our colleagues or staff, and our patients at much lower risk by handling many routine tasks and visits for chronic disease management over the internet. There may be no better time to embrace Telehealth than today.

There continue to be several obstacles to overcome. A recent Deloitte 2018 survey of U.S. health care consumers and physicians found that while 90% of physicians view “virtual care” positively, only 14% have video visit capabilities today. In addition, the elderly population may find it hard to embrace technological solutions. The medical community should work now to improve access to care for all Americans via telehealth and remote monitoring. Every physician and healthcare system throughout the country should be examining their own video and remote monitoring capabilities and working to improve their telehealth infrastructure.

The current coronavirus crisis presents the country with a real opportunity. If your physician, physician group or healthcare system has embraced telehealth, great. We hope you like it. But what if you have no insurance, and cannot afford an in office visit? Thankfully, there are options out there. There are several companies offering Telehealth services as part of their primary care offering or discounted benefit packages. These plans start as low as $14.95/month for an individual. Also, Benefits4uNow offers our own telehealth product, TeleHealth4uNow, that includes telehealth and can bundle with Telehealth plus Mental Health.

The benefits of Telehealth stretch long beyond the current coronavirus crisis. The nation should use this as an opportunity to move into the next phase of remote and virtual care medicine. Telehealth will undoubtedly prevent the spread of disease now and may also solve many other “systemic” problems in medicine going forward.

For more information on benefits and telehealth, see our benefits page.

“In a split second, I saw the ball going toward the street, and Sparky chasing after it. The driver did what she could, but the impact occurred. I heard the yelp, then thought the worst.”

Pet Insurance

Recent statistics show that many pet owners struggle with financial distress year-after-year, mainly caused by the emergency care needed by their pets or basic vet care requirements. With the continually rising costs of care, owners consider often to buy a pet policy to cover their backs in case of financial need. But how do you choose the right pet insurance plan, and is it right for you? It’s often difficult to find out the real price of a pet insurance plan.

The overall cost of pet insurance is established based on breed, age, and medical history of an animal. Also, the price can vary and can be influenced by what you want the policy to cover. You’ll also have to decide if you need only emergency care coverage or if you need to add routine vet care. Often plans can cost around $100 per month, while others can go as low as $10 monthly. Recent studies show that the average amount of money spent is around $40/month. But there are other options out there.

Veterinary Discounts

There are alternatives to these expensive pet insurance policies, whose costs sometimes rival “human” health insurance.

Pet discount plans have less stringent requirements, than pet insurance plans. You simply make sure there is a vet in your area, sign up, and get your card. When you need to visit the vet, simply display your card and receive the discount. Since this is not insurance, there are no waiting periods, age limits, and pre-existing conditions are covered.

These discounts are offered for almost everything, including wellness & sick visits, dental cleanings and x-rays, vaccinations, spays & neuters, diabetes management, cancer care surgical procedures, emergency care tumor removal ultrasound and parasite screenings.

Conclusion

If you have personal health insurance through your employer, you may wish to go the conventional insurance route for pet insurance as well. Insurance companies are offering more and more plans, as they have seen this market grow in past years, and is yet another revenue generator for them. The plans can be somewhat expensive, and frustration can occur when you try to make a claim for specific services rendered.

Pet discount plans can be used for more services and you receive the discount instantly, at the time of service.

You’ll have the peace of mind knowing you’ll be saving money for routine care, and save money if/when accidents occur.