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Consumer complaints regarding alleged surprise charges are piling up.

Since 2002, the number of U.S. adults who receive mental health treatment or counseling has increased more than 50 percent. But for many, one of the biggest hurdles to accessing mental health care remains the cost.

Enter Talkiatry, an online mental health care service that claims on its website that the majority of visits cost patients “$30 or less.*” (The fine print underneath notes, “*Includes all types of patient costs: copayment, deductible, and coinsurance. Excludes no-shows and includes $0 payments.”)

A reader said she signed up for Talkiatry because of the advertised low cost of service and the fact that her insurance company was listed on the website. But after two visits, she said she was left holding two bills totaling more than $550.

Another reader told us that 28 days after she had a virtual doctor visit on Talkiatry’s website, she received a bill for $334, even though she said her insurance company was also listed on the website. She wrote to

I was told my insurance is out of range only after I reached out to talkiatry and question them on why the bill I had to pay out of pocket was so high. I received no reply from talkiatry and was told they don’t have a billing department.

These consumers are not alone.

In fact, a number of consumers have complained to the BBB and left reviews on Trustpilot regarding these alleged surprise charges. Some even claim Talkiatry explicitly told them that their insurance was accepted but they still got charged hundreds of dollars afterwards. For example, consumers have left reviews on the company’s BBB page alleging that:

I was told that my insurance was accepted at the first visit. After the third visit and never hearing that Id be responsible for more than an office visit copay, I received a bill in the mail for almost $1k- for 2 hours of therapy. [Full review.]

I contacted [Talkiatry] for an early appointment in August 2023 and they told me they take my insurance ( I gave them my insurance info). Early this week they emailed an overpriced invoice indicating they do not take my insurance. [Full review.]

They were delighted to inform me before I scheduled my appointment that my insurance was accepted, after I had entered the information, only to send me a $400 bill for a single visit a week later. [Full review.]

After reached out to Talkiatry for comment on Jan. 30, the company responded to several customer reviews on its BBB page, including one regarding its advertised cost of “$30 or less” a visit. Talkiatry told the consumer:

We’ve partnered with major insurers to make psychiatry more accessible, but a patient’s final cost depends on their coverage. The best way to find out how much your care might cost is to contact your insurer and ask about your plans coverage for outpatient mental health treatment.

This is similar to what Talkiatry states in an FAQ on its website, though in order to read the FAQ consumers need to scroll down toward the bottom of the page and click “Can I get an estimate of my visit cost?” Here, Talkiatry reveals that:

For some, it’s just a copay. If you have an unmet deductible, it could be more. Call the number on your insurance card and ask about your plan’s coverage for outpatient psychiatric services.

Which raises some questions, including: If the cost of Talkiatry’s services varies and depends on consumers’ insurance coverage, why is Talkiatry providing a specific dollar amount in its advertising? Does it have data to support its claim that the majority of visits cost patients $30 or less?

Talkiatry did not answer these questions, which included in its request for comment. Instead, the company said it “works to keep care affordable by being an in-network psychiatry practice, and we only see patients whose insurance we accept.”

Like most doctor’s offices, we do not determine a patient’s out of pocket costs because we bill patients’ insurance directly and the insurer determines the patient’s responsibility. We don’t receive more money if a patient has a greater responsibility. We have standard rates we negotiate with insurers for our medical services. The only factor that determines a patient’s out-of-pocket cost is the details of their insurance plan.

So before you schedule an appointment with Talkiatry, you might want to get some clarity – and confirmation – as to what the mental health care services will actually cost you.

Find more of our coverage on health care here.

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