BC physiotherapist says patients hitting insurance roadblock

Health coverage denied

A Port Moody physiotherapist is sounding a warning as several high-profile insurance companies deny or limit coverage to patients amidst the COVID-19 crisis. 

Diaconu and her business partner and fellow physiotherapist Leah Sheufelt have worked to migrate their patients to virtual consultations. 

“We can give advice on [at-home] exercises,” said Diaconu. “If someone is not sleeping well, they can help them with sleep position, sleep hygiene. Little suggestions that will help a person’s life overall.... We not only treat any physical injuries but everything around offering advice around how to manage stress."

The problem, said Diaconu, is that some of the biggest extended care insurance companies like Pacific Blue Cross — which serve frontline health-care workers — stalled in offering coverage for the virtual sessions known as Telehealth.

A spokesperson for Pacific Blue Cross wrote in an email that it has since added coverage for virtual consultations until June 24. However, it only applies to existing patients. 

Further, WorkSafeBC says it will not cover new claims for virtual consultations.

“If we’re not allowed to do an initial assessment, we can’t treat them,” said Diaconu, pointing to the case of a health-care worker at St. Paul’s Hospital who sprained her ankle at work and hasn’t been able to access to coverage for a virtual consultation. 

Another extended health insurance company, Green Shield, hasn’t provided any coverage for virtual consultations, according to Diaconu. 

“[They] are still working and are not able to do the online physio classes because they’re being told their insurance doesn’t cover it,” said Diaconu.

“We’ve done our best to set these clients up for success, to give them their own home exercises. But at a certain point, there needs to be some checkup. It’s hard to do that pro bono. It’s our business, too.” 

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