Dubbed the “twenty-first-century house call” by some researchers, telehealth and virtual medical appointments have seen a rapid rise in popularity since the COVID-19 pandemic.1 In 2021 alone, 37% of American adults reported using telemedicine within the past 12 months. This percentage is even higher for women and older adults — 42% and 43.3%, respectively.2
If you’re one of the estimated 27.6 million Americans without health insurance, however, finding affordable healthcare either online or in-person can present a challenge.3 That’s where some telehealth companies, like Sesame Care, come in to try and fill that gap. By bypassing the need for insurance (and many of the fees that come with it), Sesame aims to provide affordable, accessible healthcare to anyone who needs it.
Our review of Sesame Care delves into the details of this healthcare marketplace, including subjects like the quality of care, how much it costs, the services offered, available prescriptions, and more. We also compare Sesame to some of its close competitors to help you decide if this telehealth platform is right for you.
Sesame stands out due to its transparent pricing, availability of virtual and in-person visits, and overall affordable appointment and prescription costs. If you don’t have insurance, Sesame could be an ideal way to receive telemedical care at an accessible price. The platform also gives you the freedom to choose your own provider and schedule your own appointments. However, there are some limitations, such as only generic prescription options and unavailable services in some areas. And, while Sesame is often less than typical out-of-pocket costs, frequent use of the service or the need for a specialist can still add up.
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For this review of Sesame Care, we spent over 60 collective hours exploring the service, in addition to hundreds of hours doing the same for Sesame’s close competitors. Our team conducted hands-on testing of Sesame’s platform and spoke at length with customer service to bring you harder-to-find details. We also pored over scientific studies on the effectiveness of telehealth in general, including its impact on factors like patient satisfaction and the need for follow-up visits.
Additionally, like all health-related content on this website, this review was thoroughly vetted by one or more members of our Medical Review Board for accuracy.
When seeking medical treatment, it’s likely that you’ll want quality care at an affordable price from an organization that protects your personal information and treats you with respect. This line of thinking is how we decided on the most important criteria for our evaluation of Sesame Care — quality, cost, privacy and security, and customer support. You can find detailed information on how we graded Sesame’s performance below.
Even though telehealth has seen a rapid spike in popularity since the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s still a relatively new concept for many people, so you aren’t alone if you’re curious about the quality of care you’ll receive from virtual appointments.1 4
Thankfully, Sesame (like all of its competitors mentioned in this review) is very transparent about what it requires every medical professional on its platform to have — proper licensure, board certification, and education, along with a clean disciplinary record. Additionally, multiple research studies have shown that telehealth medical appointments appear to be equally as effective as in-person care.5 Telehealth visits also seem to reduce the need for follow-ups and improve overall patient satisfaction compared to in-person doctor visits.6 7
If you’re still unsure about the quality of care from a virtual visit, Sesame does offer in-person visits, depending on your location.
The cost of Sesame ultimately depends on the practitioner or practice you choose when looking through the available options on the marketplace. Since the prices are set by the person who is providing treatment (or the place, when it comes to services like scans), it’s easy to select the best fit for your needs and budget. This is in stark contrast to services like Teladoc or Doctor on Demand, which have set prices that are more expensive (both cost over $70 for a consultation if you don’t have insurance).
Although certain services on Sesame Care may still appear a bit expensive, the costs are generally far less than you’d normally pay out-of-pocket or even as a copay with insurance. For example, as of the writing of this review, the prices on Sesame for an MRI around New York City are $311 at the lowest and $562 at the highest, while the average cost of an MRI in New York City is $1,193.8 Even at its most expensive on Sesame, that price can still be a significant savings for many people, with or without insurance.
Additionally, Sesame’s prescription service, SesameRX, can be a convenient, less expensive alternative to traditional pharmacy services. Medications on SesameRX start as low as $1 and are shipped directly to you for free. Alternatively, if you choose to have your Sesame prescription sent to a local pharmacy, you’ll either have to pay out of pocket or possibly cover a copay.
And finally, Sesame also has an optional paid membership program called Sesame Plus. For $10.99 per month or $99 per year, Sesame Plus takes $10 off the cost of doctor visits, imaging, and other services. You can also receive a free lab or blood test once per year (but only if you subscribe annually). By contrast, one pediatrics competitor, Blueberry, requires you to have a paid membership, but every visit for members is free.
Special Offer: 15% OFF With Code: Sesame15
When entrusting your personal health information to a company, it’s important to know whether or not that company is taking the necessary steps to ensure your data is handled properly.
Sesame’s platform, like its mentioned competitors, is compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), and the company requires that all providers and their affiliates “comply with all applicable laws, rules, regulations, and industry standards” including HIPAA and other federal and state laws.9
The Sesame Care website is also LegitScript Healthcare certified. (LegitScript certification is recognized by top companies such as Microsoft, Netflix, Google, and Meta.) In order to be certified by LegitScript, organizations need to uphold certain standards, including proper licensing and maintaining legal compliance.10
To maintain the security of your financial information, Sesame uses the third-party financial service Stripe for all payments. Stripe is used by millions of companies worldwide to manage payments, including Amazon, Spotify, and Instacart, to name a few. The company has been audited and certified to PCI Service Provider Level 1 (the highest and most stringent level of compliance for merchants and payment processing service providers).11 12
Sesame’s customer support team can be reached via phone, chat, or email (which are all fairly standard). When we interacted with the team to ask questions or get clarification on certain topics, the staff was very friendly and knowledgeable. They truly wanted to make sure we found the answers we were looking for and that we understood them properly. In addition to a great customer service team, Sesame provides extensive FAQs on almost every page of its website. You’ll be able to find answers about medications, appointments, providers, and much more.
This level of support compares favorably with competitors in the landscape. For example, pediatric competitor Blueberry provides a chat option, a phone number, and a fax number, with no email option to be found. Teladoc only offers a phone number.
Founded in 2018, New York-based company Sesame describes its care platform as “the first direct-to-patient care marketplace that connects patients with real, quality doctors.” Sesame acts on this identity statement by working to directly link patients to qualified, licensed, independent healthcare providers while bypassing insurance, its fees, and the (often lengthy) waits for traditional doctor appointments.
By not involving — or accepting — insurance for the services available on its platform, Sesame is able to be upfront and transparent about costs. The company states this is due to “removing the unnecessary middlemen in outpatient care.” This may very well be true, considering competitors Teladoc and Doctor on Demand charge over $70 per appointment if you don’t have insurance.
The prices listed on Sesame are set by the individual providers or practices (for services like X-rays or MRIs), and whatever is listed is exactly what you’ll pay — there are no hidden fees or other surprise charges. There is a paid membership available, Sesame Plus, which can take some additional cost off of these services, but you don’t need the membership to use Sesame.
Sesame (like Teladoc and Doctor on Demand) offers treatment for a wide variety of health concerns. The platform breaks its providers’ specialties down into a few categories, including:
This is an abbreviated list of the types of care that Sesame offers, but you can find a more comprehensive list on the website. This list includes further details on the platform’s offerings and covers some of the services not mentioned in the specialty list, including:
Insider Tip: It’s important to note that not all in-person services are available in all areas. For example, one of our testers was able to search for MRIs in their area without issue, while another in the same state was redirected to a page stating that “MRI will be available soon” in their location. If this happens to you, we suggest searching using other locations in your state that you’re willing to travel to; there may be available services in those nearby areas.
As of the writing of this review, Sesame Care is accredited by the Better Business Bureau and has an A- rating. The company’s BBB customer review score is 3.61 out of 5 stars, from 72 total reviews. While the majority of the recent reviews are positive, there are a couple of complaints regarding issues with specific providers being rude, writing incorrect prescriptions, or not showing up to appointments. However, since Sesame works with independent practitioners, it’s worth mentioning that those complaints aren’t necessarily reflective of the service itself.
Since the BBB page has only 72 reviews, that’s not a whole lot of information for determining a business’s standing. Sesame’s Trustpilot page, however, boasts much more activity. With 1,168 reviews averaging 4.3 stars, Trustpilot notes that Sesame’s feedback is “Excellent.” Additionally, the company asks for all feedback, positive or negative, and has replied to 98% of negative reviews within two days of being posted. As with the BBB complaints, most of those on Trustpilot are about specific experiences with certain doctors.
Available in all 50 states, Sesame is for anyone in the U.S. seeking more affordable and convenient healthcare, regardless of their insurance status. This includes children and teens under 18, as many providers on the platform offer pediatric services. (A parent or guardian over 18 needs to be the account holder and the one who makes the appointment, however.) People who are uninsured might find Sesame particularly helpful and economical.
Additionally, if you’re not a fan of virtual medical visits, then depending on your location and the availability of any nearby Sesame providers, you may be able to choose between a video or in-person appointment. The most common options are video visits, though, and we think the people best suited to maximize the helpfulness of Sesame are those with the technological means to have a video call.
Telehealth appointments are scheduled with doctors nationwide who are licensed to practice in your state, while in-person appointments are narrowed down to Sesame providers close to your geographic location. In comparison to its close competitors (such as Teladoc and Doctor on Demand), Sesame is the only one to offer in-person visits.
For those who require a same-day appointment, it’s worth mentioning that many of Sesame’s in-person appointments will require you to wait a few days to a week, depending on the provider’s availability. Because of this, more pressing needs may be better off as virtual appointments, as those typically have the most same-day time slots (often within a couple of hours of booking) due to the greater number of available doctors.
Since Sesame allows its providers to set the cost of their telehealth and in-person visits, the cost varies based on the provider, service, and type of appointment you choose.
As an example, for mental health services, you may pay only $25 for a telehealth video consultation. However, an in-person psychiatry consultation for a new patient could cost closer to $300. Even general medical telehealth visits have a range of costs, some as low as $25 and others as high as $99.
Though the cost of an appointment is variable, what remains consistent is that Sesame’s pricing is upfront. Before you schedule an appointment, you’ll be able to see exactly how much it will cost — without any hidden fees or surprise charges. And the same goes for Sesame’s prescription medication pricing — what’s listed is what you’ll pay.
This is similar to online dermatology consultations from Apostrophe; the company explains upfront that you’ll be charged $20 (and only $20) for your consultation.
It’s not necessary for you to receive care on the platform, but Sesame offers a paid membership option, Sesame Plus, that may prove beneficial if you frequently utilize the service. The membership costs $10.99 per month or $99 per year and takes $10 off of the following:
Additionally, those who subscribe annually receive a free lab or blood test once per year.
One of the benefits of Sesame is that you don’t need insurance to utilize the services on the platform. Since pricing is upfront, you can make decisions about cost without having to worry about insurance coverage. Even if you are insured, Sesame can be a nice option for those with high deductibles, expensive copays, or other coverage gaps. (And, depending on your plan, your Sesame visit costs might be eligible to count toward your deductible.)
If you have a health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA), you can use it to pay for Sesame’s services. Some HSAs and FSAs come with a debit card that can be used to pay for services, while others will allow you to pay out of pocket and then submit a reimbursement. You can use either method to cover the expense of a Sesame visit — HSA/FSA cards are accepted on the platform, and your provider can give you an itemized receipt if requested.
If you’d prefer a telehealth company that accepts insurance, Teladoc or Doctor on Demand may be good alternatives. If approved, you may pay as little as $0 for those services.
If you need to cancel your appointment, Sesame’s policy is fairly flexible. The conditions are as follows:
In contrast, Teladoc is rather secretive about its refund policies, only explaining that you should contact customer support if you want to request a refund. And Blueberry has a no-questions-asked refund policy — you’ll be granted a refund of your last month’s membership or for the remaining months if you purchased an annual subscription.
The Sesame Care website is user-friendly and straightforward to use. After creating a free account on the website using just your email address, you’ll be able to browse the marketplace (and receive a 20% off coupon for your visit). In this section, we break down the steps to getting started with Sesame and booking your first appointment.
After either using the search bar on the Sesame homepage or choosing from the list of symptoms, specialties, and services on the sidebar, you’ll be presented with the healthcare professionals available to you. You can sort providers by:
There are also filters you can use to narrow your search, including:
Sesame requires that all of the healthcare professionals conducting business on its marketplace be properly licensed and board-certified with clean disciplinary records, so you only need to worry about choosing the provider that best suits your needs and budget.
After selecting the provider you wish to see, clicking on their profile will bring up a page with two tabs: “Service Details” and “Availability.” The “Service Details” tab lists the following information:
The other tab, “Availability,” lists the dates and times the provider is available, along with pricing.
Insider Tip: In-person visits will either have available time slots listed or a notice stating, “After checkout, we will provide you with information on how to schedule your visit.” If you encounter the latter, then you’ll either have an appointment made to see your provider within the next seven days or a full refund.
After you select a date and time that works for you, just click the purple “Book” button on the bottom of your screen to move on to the next step: checkout.
Once you select a day and time for your appointment, the checkout page requires you to fill out some information, including:
As is common with other telehealth companies, the only form of accepted payment on Sesame is online via a credit or debit card. If you end up needing to cancel your appointment, you can cancel virtual visits up to three hours before your appointment, while in-person visits can be canceled up to 24 hours before.
After you book a video appointment, you’ll receive a confirmation message via email and text message. These messages will contain links to join your virtual appointment (which you can access from your phone, tablet, or computer). If you don’t receive a confirmation message with a link, then contacting customer support as soon as possible is recommended to avoid any delays in receiving care.
When it comes time to join your appointment, you’ll receive another reminder email and text with the link. You can access your telehealth visit through the links in the initial or reminder messages or from your Sesame Care patient dashboard under “My Appointments.”
Insider Tip: If you don’t have access to a camera, Sesame explains that you should reach out to customer support. Depending on the provider, they may be able to conduct the visit over the phone, but this isn’t guaranteed.
Generally, your telehealth visit will last around 15 minutes (or a bit longer, depending on the type of appointment). If deemed appropriate, your provider may prescribe you medication, which you can then have shipped to you for free or sent to your local pharmacy. Keep in mind that picking up medications from your local pharmacy is likely to come with additional charges, like out-of-pocket fees or copays. However, choosing the pharmacy route is the fastest way to receive a prescription, so pickup may be necessary for you if you urgently need medication.
Sesame’s prescription service, SesameRX, can fulfill both new prescriptions and refills. Prescriptions start as low as $1 for a 30-day supply and come with free, tracked delivery; only generics are available at this time.
The medication ships in discreet packaging and should arrive at your door within 3-5 business days. Doctor on Demand, in comparison, will only send prescriptions to your local pharmacy; there’s no direct shipping option.
Similar to how transparent Sesame is with provider visits, it also offers upfront pricing on medications. If you go to the Sesame medications page on the website and scroll down past the row of available providers, you’ll see the option to select a condition. When you click on each condition, the available medications pop up, along with the prices for a 30-day supply. As of the writing of this review, the least expensive medications are generic Prinivil and Zofran for $1, while the most expensive are generic Zebeta and Clomid for $11. On average, most of the medications are about $4 to $7.
Insider Tip: If you’re curious to know more about a specific medication, clicking “More info” below the prescription’s name will take you to its dedicated page. Scrolling down on these pages will show you information about what the prescription is for, common side effects, and an FAQ about the medication.
To receive a new prescription or refill, you’ll have to schedule an appointment with a provider. After selecting the medication you’d like or the condition you have, you can choose to set up either a virtual or in-person appointment (if available) with a provider qualified to prescribe that medication. It’s worth mentioning that prescription appointments cost the same as regular telehealth visits, but the cost of the appointment doesn’t include the cost of the prescription.
Additionally, as with provider visits on Sesame, prescription services don’t require insurance. If you want your medication shipped to you, then you’ll go through the familiar checkout process and pay upfront before it ships. Otherwise, you’ll likely need to pay out-of-pocket or copay fees when you pick up your prescription at a local pharmacy. For pickup, you can use your insurance.
As the popularity of telehealth continues to grow, so does the number of various competitors across the landscape. Some services, like Sesame, Teladoc, and Doctor on Demand, can provide multiple specialties of care, but some other companies, like Blueberry Pediatrics and Apostrophe, are more narrow in scope.
In the list below, we break down some of the details of these competitors and examine how they compare to Sesame.
Similar to Sesame, both Teladoc and Doctor on Demand offer treatments for a wide variety of specialties. However, both of these other services work with insurance companies and, possibly as a result, tend to be more expensive than Sesame for those without insurance coverage. Without insurance, a Teladoc general medical visit is $75, and a Doctor on Demand visit is $79. By contrast, a general medicine visit at Sesame starts as low as $25 in some locations.
A unique benefit of Doctor on Demand, however, is that its board-certified providers are actually available on demand. According to the company, its doctors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, with an average appointment waiting time of five minutes or less. This even applies to visits for certain mental health concerns, like PTSD or grief.
Apostrophe (owned by telehealth giant Hims & Hers Health) is a telehealth dermatology service that, like Sesame, conducts its consultations online and ships your prescribed treatment directly to you. Currently, Apostrophe treats acne, rosacea, hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, and fine lines. An Apostrophe virtual consultation costs $20, while oral and topical prescriptions start at $16 and $25, respectively. In our research, we found the average Sesame dermatology consultation to be between $50 and $130, making an Apostrophe consultation much less expensive. However, Sesame’s prescriptions are, on average, only around $4 to $7.
If you’re looking for a dermatology service that treats more conditions, then DermatologistOnCall could be another alternative. As with Apostrophe and Sesame, insurance isn’t required. Visits are $95, and prescription costs aren’t publicly detailed. This could mean that, ultimately, the amount you pay for DermatologistOnCall ends up more expensive than Sesame.
Blueberry is one of the only pediatric-focused telehealth companies, and it may be the least expensive for those requiring frequent visits. The company doesn’t accept insurance (like Sesame), but it requires you to pay a monthly ($20) or yearly ($180) membership fee to use the platform. However, that’s all you’ll pay — visits for Blueberry members are $0 and unlimited. And that covers every child in your family, from birth through age 21. Blueberry’s providers, similar to Doctor on Demand, are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Plus, you’ll receive a “Home Kit” that includes a wireless ear scope, a pulse oximeter, and a thermometer.
If you don’t foresee your family requiring frequent pediatrician visits or continued support, then Sesame’s pediatrician visits (around $30) may end up being more affordable. It ultimately depends on your circumstances and family.
Innerbody uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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