Think you can't afford therapy? Check with this calculator first - Technical.ly Philly

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Sep. 25, 2017 12:37 pm

Think you can’t afford therapy? Check with this calculator first

“People have benefits that they may not know about,” says Lauren Hallden, product designer at Stitch. That's why she built this handy tool as a side project.

Hallden, lead product designer at Stitch, built the calculator to help people navigate the complexities of health insurance.

(Photo by Jason Sherman)

Stitch’s Lauren Hallden tends to be generous with the things that take up her time.

After doing some digging on what Philly’s best hiking paths were, she put all of the tips together in a handy online map. After seeking out other folks grappling with loneliness, she built an online platform to help others feel less alone. After people started liking her pictures of the Delaware river, she bought a foldable boat to actually go *into* the river and make the pics even better.

That’s why, last year, the process of wading through healthcare payment forms led her to a new project: building a calculator that helps people find out what paying for therapy sessions would end up looking like after copays and applicable tax deductions.

“I was really surprised that because of the Affordable Care Act most insurance plans cover therapy sessions,” Hallden said. “People have benefits that they may not know about. You can file an out-of-network claims that bring your cost down a bunch.”

Initially, the project looked like a simple calculator that spit out the cost of sessions after entering deductibles and coinsurance rates. Hallden, 33, quickly discovered there was more work to do.

“I kept running into different characteristics from people and now I think it’s really comprehensive,” the designer said. “It’s in the spirit of TurboTax.”

The calculator is a open source project — like Stitch’s Singer platform — built in JavaScript. 

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Do the math

Besides turning people on to available tax cuts and benefits, Hallden said another perk of the calculator is helping to cut through the stigma of talking about therapy.

“People think it’s a high commitment thing to do, but the process is much more like: show up, have a conversation, they tell your payment plan and you start,” said Hallden. “I’m trying to make the first step easier, hopefully.”

According to Dan McGill, who leads the benefits team at Capstone Insurance Group, a platform like the one Hallden built serves a good purpose by bringing more awareness to conversations frequently had at the company: how to help people understand something as complex as their insurance coverage.

The Montco-based company handles insurance for startups in the tech ecosystem like Howzer and coworking spot Benjamin’s Desk.

“The educational piece [on insurance coverage] is severely underserved in these smaller startups,” said the firm’s managing partner, Kevin Fox. “And that’s really important to tech clients.”

When it comes to therapy, McGill said, employees have a a “general sense” that they’re covered but there’s a lot of confusion as to how and where.

One addition McGill would make to Hallden’s open-source system is being able to select from specific insurance plans to provide even more accurate results.

Maybe for the next version?

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Roberto Torres

Roberto Torres became Technical.ly Lead Philly Reporter in May 2016. Prior, he was a freelance contributor to Technical.ly and Al Dia News. The native Venezuelan moved to Philadelphia in 2015 after reporting on research at his alma mater, the University of Zulia. Whenever he's not fencing deadlines, he can be found standing in line at Overbrook Pizza in West Philly, running Netflix/Hulu marathons with his wife or reading news from Venezuela.

  • willcommentforfood

    A couple things. 1, the latest R bill, Graham-Cassidy, gets rid of the required coverage of mental health services in insurance plans, which Ovamacste requires. #2, the Trump Admin has cut the budget for promoting Ocare enrollments to zero. That means more people will not know they can have services they want covered, in plans they can afford.

    Not exactly helping American health “consumers”. That last word is what all of us wre labeled by the insurance system. We aren’t consumers, nor are we robots, or are we all criminals wanting a handout. We are all men, women, and children, who need health care, in our lifetime, sooner or later.

    The leadership in Congress, and the WH, only see us as fools to be fooled, so they can take away our right, yes it is a right, to affordable, quality health care. We won’t let them.

  • Sean Dawes

    A lot of psych do not accept insurance which is the underlying issue as well.

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