California Healthline December 8, 2021
Julie Appleby

Maybe this has happened to you recently: Your doctor telephoned to check in with you, chatting for 11 to 20 minutes, perhaps answering a question you contacted her office with, or asking how you’re responding to a medication change.

For that, your doctor got paid about $27 if you are on Medicare — maybe a bit more if you have private insurance.

Behind those calls is a four-digit “virtual check-in” billing code created during the pandemic, for phone conversations lasting just within that range, which has drawn outsize interest from physician groups.

It’s part of a much bigger, increasingly heated debate: Should insurers pay for “audio-only” visits? And, if they do, should they pay the same reimbursement rate as when...

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