While I was listening to a podcast, an advertisement came on for a company called BetterHelp, offering me 10 percent off my first month’s subscription.
Subscription to what? Therapy, delivered online or over the phone.
The pitch started like this:
Unfortunately, life doesn’t come with a user manual, so when it’s not working for you it’s normal to feel stuck. Therapists are trained to help you figure out the cause of challenging emotions and help you learn productive coping skills, which makes therapy the closest thing to a guided tour of the complex engine called you.
Who couldn’t benefit from learning productive coping skills? Who wouldn’t be interested in a guided tour of your complex internal engine? You’ll have to pay for it, of course. This particular product costs anywhere from $60 – $90 a month. No problem, your health insurance will cover the costs, right? No.
BetterHelp doesn’t submit claims to Medicare, Medicaid, or private health insurers. They state that their services are not covered by most health insurers.
And they position this as somehow preferable. In their FAQs, BetterHelp pulls out some scare tactics, letting you know that if you try going the therapy route through your insurance company, in order to be reimbursed, you might have to be diagnosed with a mental disorder and having that diagnosis appear in your medical record, which presumably is a bad look. From the FAQ:
In many cases, before you can get reimbursed by your insurance company, your therapist would have to diagnose you with a mental disorder or issue. This diagnosis would be sent to the insurance company and recorded in your medical file. In some cases the therapist would also have to provide additional clinical information to the insurance company, such as treatment plans, summaries or copies of the entire record.
For-Profit Health Care
Like many other tech startups, BetterHelp is located in Silicon Valley. They have a relatively simple business model: recruit and pay therapists to deliver therapy virtually while promoting their services to the public to attract customers. Charge customers more than they pay therapists and the net after expenses is profit. They also offer their services to organizations and businesses that can buy therapy for their employees.
BetterHelp, which is a brand of Teladoc Health Inc. (NYSE: TDOC), posted strong performance in 2021, pulling in $700 million in global revenue.
Everyone Deserves to Feel Their Best
“Everyone deserves to feel their best.” That’s how the ad I heard for BetterHelp ends. It’s a great message, and virtual therapy offers access when in-person therapy isn’t available or preferable. We do all deserve to feel our best. Wait, not all of us. Only those of us who can afford the monthly subscription fee. Or those who are given a gift of therapy (it’s the holiday season, and BetterHelp promotes gift-giving subscriptions). The rest of you losers who aren’t as well off financially or don’t get a therapy gift under the holiday tree don’t deserve to feel your best.
Maybe you have good health insurance which offers generous mental health benefits. Many health insurers started covering telehealth services, including mental health services, during the pandemic, and continue to do so. If that’s your insurance company, you’re fortunate.
If you don’t have that kind of insurance, and you’re feeling depressed, anxious, suffering the effects of trauma, or experiencing other mental health challenges, then you better get out your credit card. Because access to health care isn’t a right in this country, it’s a product you have to purchase, like any other consumer product. But at least you can get 10 percent off your first month at BetterHelp.