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Medical schemes are now paying full rates for your online therapy sessions

  • Discovery Health, Momentum Health and Profmed will pay psychologists their normal face-to-face fees for virtual consultations during the national lockdown. 
  • This after the HPCSA changed its rules to allow for first-time consultations to take place virtually to avoid the spread of Covid-19. 
  • Discovery health, however, said due to privacy concerns on Skype and Zoom, it is developing its own tool to allow for virtual consultations.

Discovery Health, which administers 21 medical schemes in South Africa, Momentum Health and Profmed have all agreed to pay psychologists their normal rates for virtual consultations compared to face-to-face ones during the national lockdown.

Virtual psychology consultations were previously only allowed in South Africa where a relationship existed between the practitioner and patients.

The rules have since been changed by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) to allow for first-time consultations to take place virtually due to Covid-19.

However, the South African Medical Association, the country’s largest medical practitioners association, last week expressed concern that Discovery Health and Gems were offering lower rates for virtual consultations compared to face-to-face consultations.

Both Discovery Health and Gems have since changed its policy to allow 100% payment of virtual consultations.

Discovery Health told Business Insider South Africa that it changed its policy to pay psychologists 65% of their normal rate for a virtual consultation, to paying 100% after engagement with psychology professionals.

This is because a virtual psychology consultation is typically similar in duration compared to a face-to-face consultation. The payment of doctors for virtual consultations increased from 65% to 75%.

Discovery said it will, however, require psychologists to send an email submission confirming the clinical engagement as certain therapists have billed for full rates for virtual consultations, which in some cases lasted less than two minutes in duration.

Consumers can book for virtual consultations by simply booking an appointment with a psychologist and claiming through the medical aid, in line with an individual’s respective benefits.

Profmed CEO Craig Comrie said that while they are offering 100% payment for psychiatrists and psychologist virtual consultations, they would still encourage members to first visit a doctor who can refer them to a trained professional if required.

Meanwhile, medical scheme Bonitas said it is still studying the changes in the HPCSA’s rules, and at this stage still pay medical professionals according to agreed-upon telemedicine tariffs.

Following repeated breaches of privacy on Zoom and Skype, Discovery Health said it is expanding its DrConnect virtual consultations platform to soon include psychologists as well to create a safer environment where a patient’s privacy can be protected.

Article: Business Insider 

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