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Amid Coronavirus Anxiety, Some Find Therapy Via Telehealth Is Not Covered By Insurance

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Are you feeling anxious? If so, you're not alone.

A CBS News poll found 45 percent of Americans say the coronavirus pandemic is affecting their mental health.

Experts say to grab a computer and talk to a counselor virtually – but CBS 2's Lauren Victory found some insurance plans will make you pay out of pocket for it.

Taking in a deep breath of fresh air is one of the ways Shelby keeps her cool these days.

"Going for like short walks," Shelby said.

Comedic performances or downtown adventures are not an option with COVID-19 lurking. And for someone with a history like Shelby of, as she put it, "just feeling extremely depressed and very anxious," it's especially hard not to shut down when everything else is.

Fortunately, Shelby's treatment provider, Souncloud Health, is offering group therapy via telemedicine – live and online.

"It's been really awesome just to have that support, especially since we're all quarantined and I'm isolating," she said.

But there was a catch. Her telehealth visits were not covered by her insurance.

"I feel like immediately, my heart just sank," Shelby said. "I didn't know that something like telehealth. especially when there really isn't any other option wouldn't be covered."

"This has actually been a national problem," said clinical psychologist Dr. Jodie Goldberg Singer. "It's kind of a long room."

Goldberg Singer raised the alarm to CBS 2 weeks ago.

"People are just waiting and waiting for an answer," she said.

A regular counseling session that now happens to be over Goldberg Singer's computer is suddenly $150 for some clients – even when they have insurance.

What about Gov. JB Pritzker's executive order that requires insurers cover the costs of all telehealth services during the pandemic?

Health care economist Katherine Baicker explained ERISA plans – a term you may hear some chirping about.

"For large employers who operate across state lines, they're self-insured and thus not subject to some of the state regulations of the insurance industry," Baicker said.

Virtual visits are beneficial financially, said Baicker, who also said to expect more self-funded plans to offer telehealth in the coming weeks.

"It takes a lot of adjustment to make sure money flows to the provider delivering those services and that they're being delivered appropriately," she said.

But that delay, Shelby said, is "really scary."

And the unknown is no walk in the park when you depend on continuous treatment.

"I can only imagine how many other people are in the exact same position," Shelby said.

Virtual visits are available for several types of medical services these days. So how do you know if you're covered?

Baicker said to check your insurer's website, or call human resources at your company.

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