Telemedicine doctors cannot currently order tests for COVID-19, but they can write prescriptions.

As real estate agents and brokers across the country contend with the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, the National Association of Realtors is offering its members a service to help them address what’s most important: their health.

Starting Thursday, the 1.4 million-member trade group is making a telemedicine service, Members TeleHealth, available to Realtors and their immediate families at no cost for two months, so long as they register before April 15.

Bob Goldberg | NAR CEO

NAR announced Members TeleHealth had joined its Realtors Insurance Marketplace in January 2016. The expanded access to the service is part of NAR’s “Right Tools, Right Now” program, which was first launched in March 2009 in the throes of the Great Recession and which NAR revived on March 27 to offer members resources at reduced or no cost.

“While the nation continues to grapple with the COVID-19 crisis, we are doing everything we can to ensure our members and their families can stay safe, healthy and secure,” said NAR CEO Bob Goldberg in a statement.

According to a press release, NAR anticipates the service will draw “significant interest” and has also negotiated a discounted rate for those who wish to retain coverage beyond the two month, no-cost period. That rate is $7 per month for Realtors and their families, according to Members TeleHealth’s sign-up page for NAR members.

Previously, NAR’s marketplace offered the service at $12.99 for an individual plan or $14.99 for a family plan with a $10 enrollment fee, NAR spokesperson Mantill Williams told Inman via email.

Members TeleHealth provides round-the-clock access to MDLive, a network of more than 2,300 state-licensed board-certified U.S. physicians who can address non-emergency medical issues from a smartphone, tablet or computer, according to NAR’s website. MDLive doctors treat issues such as allergies, asthma, flu, fever, virus, acne, headaches, rashes, joint aches, urinary tract infections, nausea, vomiting, infections, pink eye, and sore throat, the website said.

All active NAR members and Realtor association staff are eligible for the two-month free period, which comes with unlimited consultations and no enrollment fee or co-pays. Members TeleHealth operates in all 50 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and Puerto Rico.

NAR has pre-approved a maximum number of enrollments in the service, so before signing up, both NAR and Members TeleHealth urge Realtors to check with their insurance provider, even if it’s Medicare, to check to see if they already have access to telemedicine.

Asked what that pre-approved maximum was, NAR did not give a specific number. “We are unsure how many Realtors will use this service, as we have never been in quite this situation,” Williams said.

“We have research that gives us an idea of how many of members say they have health insurance coverage, which today is likely to include a telemedicine option (84 percent had health insurance for 2019, according to a NAR survey of our members last July). We are focused on helping those members who do not have access to telemedicine and need it.”

Vince Malta | NAR

MDLive doctors can write and refill prescriptions where appropriate, but will not prescribe federally-controlled substances, non-therapeutic drugs and certain other drugs with a potential for abuse, according to NAR.

“As we continue to solicit input from our members regarding COVID-19’s impact on their lives and businesses, NAR is grateful to be able to offer expanded access to potentially lifesaving telemedicine services,” said NAR President Vince Malta in a statement.

“Medical professionals are urging Americans who are sick to stay home, and telemedicine is playing a critical role protecting our communities and our health care workers. We continue to encourage members to limit their exposure and decrease the chance of spreading illnesses to others.”

Regarding coronavirus, the trade group’s website warns that wait times for Members TeleHealth may be longer than normal due to the pandemic and that telemedicine doctors cannot currently order tests for COVID-19.

“Symptoms associated with Coronavirus (COVID-19) are mild to severe fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you feel sick, stay home. Limit your exposure, and decrease the chance of spreading illness to others. Board-certified physicians are available to you via phone, app, web chat, or email. They will assess your condition and help determine the necessary next steps,” the website said.

Asked how a Realtor who suspects they have COVID-19 would use the service, Williams said, “The FFCVRA (Families First Coronavirus Response Act) guarantees that testing be free of charge, while any medical facility that a Realtor might be instructed to visit once an assessment is made and a test is deemed necessary will comply with this law to test free of charge.

“MDLive cannot order or issue a test for the virus via web or phone, but has added specific COVID-19 triage questions that are accessible to both PC and mobile device users along with a page dedicated to helping users minimize the risk of exposure and avoid [emergency room] visits.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional comments from NAR.

Email Andrea V. Brambila.
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