Plushcare Review

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3.4

Plushcare

Plushcare Online Therapy

If you’re looking for a telehealth company that also offers some mental health services, PlushCare might work for you. But its prices for therapy are much higher than competitors and its medication management services are done by doctors, rather than psychiatrists.

Pros
  • Therapy sessions are 45 minutes

  • Medication management services are available

  • Weekly sessions included in subscription price

  • All therapists are licensed

  • Modern, informative website

  • Fast appointment times available

  • Therapist bios are available online

  • You can choose your therapist

Cons
  • Doesn’t accept insurance for therapy, only primary care

  • Therapy services not available to patients in all states

  • No psychiatrists on staff; prescriptions filled by MDs

  • No messaging-based therapy option

  • Cannot prescribe certain controlled medications

  • No refunds for unused therapy sessions if you cancel mid-month

  • No teen, couples, or group therapy

3.4

Plushcare

Plushcare Online Therapy

Plushcare was founded in 2015 by Ryan McQuaid and is headquartered in San Francisco, CA. The mission of the company was to create an online platform to provide the highest quality healthcare experience for every person in the US, regardless of location or health insurance status. The company does a good job of sticking to that goal today, though it should be noted that while the company accepts insurance for its medical services, it does not for therapy.

To fairly and thoroughly review Plushcare against its competitors, we surveyed 100 current users from 33 different online therapy platforms in order to gain insight into their experiences. We also sent a questionnaire directly to each company to get more detailed information about their offerings. These surveys and questionnaires allowed us to directly compare offerings, quality of service, and client satisfaction across companies. We used the feedback from the client questionnaire to evaluate user satisfaction and perception of quality. 

Plushcare did not respond to our questionnaire, despite multiple attempts to contact them.  This hindered our ability to gain as much insight into their company and goals as we were able to with some of their competitors. We had to rely exclusively on user survey data in order to assess the company. Keep reading to see how Plushcare stacks up against its online therapy competition.

First Impressions and Sign-up Process 

When you arrive at Plushcare’s homepage, you’ll find a photo of a smiling woman above the words “Healthcare that makes you smile.” Below that, there's a brief summary of the company’s services and an orange button encouraging you to “Book an Appointment.” Below the button, there is an asterisk and the promise that if the company is unable to treat you or provide care, they’ll offer you a full refund.

Plushcare Landing Page

If you click that orange button, you will be taken to the intake page for scheduling a primary care doctor, not a therapist. This is fine if you’re coming to Plushcare for medical services, but misleading if you’re here for any of their other services, like therapy. 

It’s also worth noting that this doctor intake will simply ask you if you’re paying for yourself or using insurance; you then book a doctor without any preliminary questions about why you’re there or what you’re seeking treatment for. Once you click on a doctor and select a time, you have 18 seconds to create your profile before losing your slot; this is definitely not enough time to fill out the form with your basic contact information. It makes for an off-putting first impression, especially if you thought you’d be able to book a therapist with this button too. 

If you don’t click the orange button and opt to scroll down the page, you’ll find more information—such as what kind of training their MDs have, how their virtual sessions work, and the types of insurance they take—but just like the orange button, the focus is on their medical services, not therapy. This lends the impression that this is a telehealth rather than a therapy site.

The only way you can find information about PlushCare’s therapy options is by clicking on “What We Treat” in the top navigation bar and then selecting “Mental Health” or “Online Therapy.” (The fact that you have two options dedicated to the same service is also confusing.)

Plushcare Mental Health Page

If you select “Mental Health” on the top navigation menu, you’ll be taken to a page topped with a calming, blue image of a woman, the words “We take care of you, body and mind,” and a short paragraph inviting you to speak with one of their therapists or primary care physicians to get emotional support or medication. Below that is another orange “Book an Appointment” button. However, this time, when you click, you’ll be taken to a short mental health intake page. This questionnaire will ask you if you’re interested in therapy, medication, or aren’t sure. 

No matter what choice you select, you’ll be asked the same questions: whether you’re looking for a prescription for one of four medications (Xanax, Adderall, Ativan, or Valium) and, as long as you answer no, whether you’ve ever been diagnosed with psychosis or schizophrenia. 

If you click yes to either question, you’ll be told that PlushCare’s services are not appropriate for you. After the questionnaire, if you said you were interested in therapy, you’ll be taken to a page where you can schedule your first session; but if you said you were interested in medication, you’ll be offered the chance to enroll in their “Care + Meds plan,” which includes monthly video check-ins with a doctor and a prescription sent to your home, or the option to book a primary care appointment.

Plushcare Online Therapy Page

If you select “Online Therapy” on the homepage’s top navigation menu, you’ll land on a different page than the Mental Health one. This one outlines the company’s therapy program, gives you the option to see if they offer therapy in your state, and features an orange “Book Online Therapy Appointment” button.

It’s worth noting that if you select this, you’ll simply be taken to a scheduling page where you can book your first session or a 15-minute informational call—there is no intake form about your mental health history first.  If you opt to schedule a session, you’ll then be given the option to pick any therapist you want (their bios are linked below their headshot) at a time that works for you. Once you select a timeslot, you’ll decide whether you want it to be a one-off appointment or a weekly session before being prompted to create your PlushCare account.

Your appointment time is only held for 18 seconds, which is not long enough to create an account. If you can't enter your contact information fast enough during that time, you’ll be directed back to the available appointments again to re-pick a time. This makes for a frustrating user experience until you’ve created your PlushCare account.

This is also where you’re informed that therapy services are available with a monthly membership to PlushCare but that your first month is free. (More on that below.)

Plushcare Blog

Despite the confusing navigation for therapy seekers, the website itself is modern, loads quickly, and is well-maintained. The site has a blog, which is broken up into topic areas, such online prescription, primary care, mental health, online doctor, and more. You can scroll through a carousel by topic to find posts or you to search through posts with the search function at the top of the page if you’re looking for information about specific conditions, symptoms, or treatments. 

The company also has a presence on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, all of which seem to be updated relatively regularly. 

PlushCare’s most informative and easy-to-navigate page is its FAQs page, though to find it you have to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the homepage where it's hidden in a footer menu.

Seventy-two percent of the users we surveyed reported they had a very good or excellent experience signing up for Plushcare.

The sign-up satisfaction rate is lower than average, which we suspect might have to do with the confusing navigation, the 18-second appointment hold, and the lack of a personalized mental health intake form.

Cost 

PlushCare is a telehealth service first, an online therapy company second. As such, there are two costs: the membership subscription and the cost of your treatment. This is a different business model than most of the companies we reviewed.

Seventy-one percent of the users we surveyed said the cost was very good or excellent. 

However, it’s important to note that while the median U.S. household income in 2019 was $68,703, according to the Census Bureau, only 15% of PlushCare users had an income close to (or below) that. Instead, overwhelmingly, PlushCare users made more than the median U.S. income: 22% had incomes between $75,000 and $99,000 annually; 57% had incomes between $100,000 and $199,999; and 6% had incomes over $200,000. 

As a result, what may have been affordable to the PlushCare users we surveyed may not be affordable to most therapy seekers, especially since you have to pay for both a PlushCare membership and each therapy session without insurance. 

This is especially true given that the price per therapy session is higher than most companies we reviewed.

What Subscription Plans Does Plushcare Offer?

The PlushCare membership is a telehealth subscription. Whether you’re insured or not, the cost is $14.99 a month or $99 a year, though if you have insurance, you will pay a co-pay for all primary care visits. Cash-paying users will pay $119 per medical visit.

You must be a PlushCare member in order to sign up for their therapy services. On top of the monthly membership, you will then pay for your therapy. 

Therapy sessions cost:

  • $149 if you commit to a weekly, 45-minute talk-therapy session subscription
  • $169 per single session if you want the flexibility to schedule sessions less often than once per week. 

If you’re seeking medication management or a prescription for mental health medication, you will need to enroll in a separate plan.

The Care+Meds plan costs $49 the first month and $99 per month after that. It includes:

  • Monthly video check-ins with your doctor
  • Medication shipped to your home
  • Ongoing support from the care team

Is There a Free Trial?

All users get a free 30-day trial of the PlushCare membership, but you will pay for your therapy sessions or doctor appointments.

Does Plushcare Accept Insurance?

While PlushCare accepts insurance for its primary care services, it does not accept insurance for therapy or prescription delivery service—a detail they only make clear in their FAQs, not on their homepage. 

Users may feel misled when signing up for the first time, especially since PlushCare prominently displays their insurance partners on their homepage and membership page.

Can You Change or Cancel Your Subscription?

You can cancel your membership at any time through the app or your client portal. 

You can cancel or reschedule your therapy appointments up to two hours before the appointment without penalty, but appointments canceled within the two-hour window will be deducted from your monthly allotment of appointments. 

You are also charged a $30 fee for cancelling within less than two-hours or for not showing up.

Are There Discounts Available?

Subscribers to the Care + Meds plan get a discount on their first month.

Ease of Use

Eighty-four percent of the users we surveyed thought the PlushCare platform was either very good or excellent in terms of user-friendliness and ease of use, which was above average compared to the other users we surveyed. This is likely because once you’ve created your PlushCare account, scheduling is fairly easy and intuitive.

Live sessions with your therapist and doctor take place through audio or video session only. 

However, you do have the ability to send messages outside of a session to your doctor and therapist with questions or concerns. This messaging platform is not designed to be therapy, unlike the messaging options available at some of the other companies we reviewed, such as Talkspace.

Eighty-six percent of survey respondents thought the video platform quality was either very good or excellent, while 74% said speed at which they heard a response from the therapist was either very good or excellent. 

If you do not like the therapist or doctor you’re currently working with, you can request a switch by scheduling an appointment with another therapist of your choosing. You can also call customer service if you need help. Eighty-percent of the users we surveyed found the switching process easy or very easy—which is higher than the average number of users who found the switching process easy or very easy at competitor sites.

Therapists' Qualifications and Quality of Care


Eighty percent of the users we surveyed said that therapist qualifications were a moderately important or extremely important reason for choosing Plushcare—but after trying the services, only 74% said they found the therapists’ qualifications to be either very good or excellent. This was a below-average satisfaction rate compared to the other companies we reviewed. 

It’s possible that part of the reason why users were less satisfied is because you do not have the option of meeting with a psychiatrist—all medication management is done by a medical doctor. 

All providers at PlushCare, though, are either board-certified doctors or licensed therapists. Plushcare does not work with life or business coaches or nurses. You can view the bios and qualifications of your providers on the site at the time of scheduling your appointments.

Ninety-four percent of users said they were either satisfied or very satisfied with the therapist options available.

PlushCare does not disclose how many total therapists are associated with its service—and the number you have to choose from (if you live in a state where therapy is offered) depends on where you live. 

According to our user surveys, most people switch providers a few times before finding the right match; only 7% stick with the first person they choose.

  • Thirty-percent of the people we surveyed reported seeing two providers.
  • Thirty-eight percent saw three.
  • Twenty-five percent saw four or more.

Types of Therapy Offered

PlushCare offers a variety of physical health services, including care for urgent medical issues, everyday primary care, and ongoing care, as well as mental health services. These include (as noted above) talk therapy (if you live in certain states) and medication management for non-controlled substances, such as SSRIs, SNRIs, and Wellbutrin.

With no psychiatrists on staff, PlushCare cannot provide treatment for more severe mental health conditions and it cannot prescribe controlled substances, such as Xanax, Adderall, Ativan, and Valium. The full list of drugs they cannot prescribe is noted on the website.

PlushCare’s mental health services can help people with:

  • Mild to moderate anxiety
  • Mild to moderate depression
  • High stress
  • Relationship issues
  • Mood management issues
  • Self-esteem issues

The website does not disclose what specific therapeutic techniques therapists use in session and they did not respond to our questionnaire.

Privacy Policies

Like most of the online therapy companies we reviewed, PlushCare takes a number of steps to protect client privacy and data. It is HIPAA compliant with all its protocols and according to its privacy policy, it states that it has implemented all “commercially reasonable” physical, technical, and administrative security measures to protect your information. The company uses a firewall and other security infrastructure, and it encrypts all data during transmission using SSL security, an industry standard. 

If you want to obtain your medical records from the company, you can do that relatively quickly and easily once you sign a release of information. The records can be sent directly to you or another medical professional.  

While Plushcare protects your identity, data, and privacy from others, the services are not anonymous. The company knows who you are and makes efforts to verify your identity before you can use their services.

If during your treatment, your therapist decides you need more help than they can offer, a different type of therapy, or medications they can't provide, the company will refer you to a local resource that is a better fit. They will also file a formal report with authorities if they believe you are a threat to yourself or others, as is required by law.

Overall Client Satisfaction

Sixty-five percent of the users we surveyed rated the services they received through PlushCare as either very good or excellent, which is lower than the average for all the companies we reviewed. Seventy-four percent said the value was very good or excellent for the money spent. 

Still, 82% who had used other online therapy services said that PlushCare was better or much better than their previous online service.

According to our survey, it appears that most clients are relatively new to the company:

  • Eighteen percent have been users for less than three months.
  • Twenty-five percent have been users for three to six months.
  • Thirty-two percent have been users for six to 12 months. 

Meanwhile, only 14% have been users for over a year and only 11% have been users for more than two years. 

But, 89% told us they were likely or very likely to be working with PlushCare a year from now.

Ninety-six of users reported that they were either likely or very likely to recommend someone like them to Plushcare.

Is Plushcare Right For You?

PlushCare is first and foremost a primary health care company, so its main focus is on physical health. Thus, if you’re looking for an all-around care company that will cater to your physical and mental health needs, it might work well for you. You can easily add on mental health or medication management services to your PlushCare membership and you have a one-stop destination for virtual care—if you can afford the cost, that is.

However, if mental health care is your primary concern, there are likely better options for you. There are certainly more affordable talk therapy services available, including some that take insurance, which is why PlushCare is not one of our recommended best online therapy companies. It is also not the place to go if you’re looking for appointments with a psychiatrist as all medication management is done by a doctor. 

Its therapists cannot diagnose mental health conditions for work or school accommodations and it is not for anyone under the age of 18. It also does not offer couples or group therapy. The doctors cannot prescribe controlled substances, including Adderall, so it may not be the best choice if you have ADHD. 

PlushCare also is not an emergency service and it is not for people struggling with suicidal thoughts who are in crisis or need inpatient care. People with psychotic disorders or a history of psychosis are also not a good fit. 

PlushCare vs. Doctor on Demand

PlushCare and Doctor on Demand are both telehealth companies that have expanded to offer mental health services. Both offer talk therapy services with licensed therapists as well as medication management services. However, Doctor on Demand employs psychiatrists and board-certified doctors; PlushCare only employs the latter. 

While both accept insurance for their primary care services, only Doctor on Demand accepts insurance for its therapy services as well. PlushCare requires you to pay out-of-pocket for its mental health services. 

PlushCare also charges for its membership, while Doctor on Demand is free to join and you pay simply for the services you use when you use them.

  • PlushCare charges $14.99 per month or $99 a month for its membership, then $149 for 45-minute weekly therapy sessions or $169 for individual 45-minute talk therapy sessions. Medication management for mental health costs $49 the first month, then $99 per month.
  • Doctor on Demand offers 25-minute talk therapy sessions or $179 for 50-minute sessions. Initial psychiatrist appointments cost $299, with 15-minute follow-ups costing $129. If you have insurance, you may pay less. 


Both websites are informative, but not the most intuitive to navigate, especially if you’re more interested in mental health services rather than those for physical health. Both companies display provider bios when booking your appointments, though, and have informative blogs. 

In terms of user satisfaction, Doctor on Demand may have had a small edge: 75% said the services were very good or excellent, which was much higher than the 65% at PlushCare that said the same. 

However, 96% of Plushcare clients said they were either likely or very likely to refer someone to the company, compared to only 90% of Doctor in Demand clients. 

Plus, 89% percent of PlushCare users and 88% of Doctor on Demand users reported they were either likely or very likely to still be seeing a therapist within the company a year from now; the same number (82%) of users at both companies said the services they received were either better or much better than the services at the companies they used before.

Final Verdict

If you’re looking for a one-stop online destination for your primary care and mental health, PlushCare might work for you. Your membership will give you fast access to a doctor whenever you need it, and if you can afford the extra out-of-pocket cost, you can also schedule weekly or as-needed therapy sessions or seek prescriptions for your mental heal medication. 

However, PlushCare says its goal is to enable the highest quality of healthcare for every person in the US, regardless of location and health insurance status. While it might achieve this goal as a primary health care company, when it comes to mental health, it seems to fall short of achieving that goal. Since its therapy and medication management services are not covered by insurance and are more expensive out-of-pocket than almost all the other companies we reviewed, its services are likely out-of-reach financially for most users. In addition, since it doesn’t offer access to psychiatrists, there are a number of mental health conditions that their clinicians can't treat.

Methodology

Our methodology for evaluating online therapy companies is comprehensive and data-driven. As mentioned above, we sent questionnaires to 33 companies and surveyed 100 current users of each in order to gather qualitative and quantitative data about each company and its users’ experiences.

Specifically, we evaluated each company on website usability, sign-up process, subscription offerings, client privacy protections, and the ease of changing therapists. We then looked at therapist qualifications, the types of therapy offered, quality of care, client-therapist communication options, session length, and the therapist assignment process. Finally, we assessed cost, value for money, whether the companies take insurance, overall user satisfaction, and the likelihood clients would recommend them.

Specs

  • Product Name Plushcare
  • Year Founded 2015
  • Insurance Accepted? Not for mental health services
  • Price $14.99/month or $99/year membership plus $149 per week or $169 per session for therapy; $99 per month for medication management
  • HIPAA Compliant Yes
  • Platforms Live video, audio
  • Payment Options All major credit cards
  • App Available? (Y/N) Yes
Edited by
Simone Scully
simone-scully-verywell

Simone is the health associate editorial director for performance marketing at Verywell. She has over a decade of experience as a professional journalist covering mental health, chronic conditions, medicine, and science.

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  1. Semega, J., Kollar, M., Shrider, E. A., & Creamer, J. (2020, September 15). Income and poverty in the United States: 2019. Census.gov.