I Tried the Unique Costco Telehealth Member Benefit to Save on Healthcare. Here's What Happened

Costco has a new way to help you save money on healthcare — beyond the Costco pharmacy, low-cost Costco Optical exams, and great deals on hearing aids. Costco now gives members special prices on access to a telehealth platform called Sesame. With Sesame, you can get convenient medical care online or in-person. 

I recently tried Sesame for the first time. Here are a few highlights and insights from what happened when I used my Costco membership for online healthcare with Sesame. 

What is Sesame and how does it work for Costco members? 

Sesame (sesamecare.com) is an online marketplace for healthcare providers. You can use Sesame to get primary healthcare visits and other medical care online for much lower costs than traditional office visits. It’s like Costco for doctor’s appointments. 

Not all of the medical care providers on Sesame are doctors; some are nurse practitioners, registered nurses, or physician assistants. But you can find healthcare professionals from a wide range of specialties, including primary care, dermatology, cardiology, and dentistry. You can use Sesame for online mental health visits, birth control consults, lab work referrals, allergy appointments, and more. 

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Sesame doesn’t work with health insurance. Instead, you pay cash directly to your healthcare provider (via the Sesame platform). Anyone who has a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) who has to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars per year on out-of-pocket healthcare costs might want to try Sesame with Costco member pricing. 

How much does Sesame cost for Costco members? Primary care visits for Costco members start at $29 (regular prices start at $39 for a one-time visit). 

What happened when I tried Sesame (with Costco pricing) 

Without violating my medical privacy and getting into a lot of gory details: I had a minor skin issue that needed a prescription, and I wanted to be looked at by a dermatologist. My usual real-life, in-person dermatology office charges hundreds of dollars for a checkup; my last bill from it was almost $500. 

Since I’m self-employed, no one else is coming to save me from my medical bills and high deductibles. I already have to pay for lots of healthcare out of pocket without getting much help from my insurance, so I decided that I might as well try Sesame instead. For my home ZIP code, Sesame’s marketplace showed a few healthcare providers who were offering online dermatology appointments for as little as $42.

I signed up for a $42 appointment and the next day I logged into the Sesame video chat at the scheduled time, and…the healthcare provider never showed up. 

That was disappointing, but I complained to Sesame’s support email address, and Sesame quickly refunded the $42 to my credit card. So I decided to try Sesame one more time: I booked a new appointment with a more expensive, but more reliable dermatologist for only $61. 

This dermatologist showed up on time for our video appointment, she was easy to chat with and immediately helpful, and she quickly wrote me a prescription (at the Costco Pharmacy) to treat my barely noticeable but slightly irritating skin condition.  

Lesson learned from using Sesame with my Costco membership: Sesame really worked! And it only cost $61 for an online visit with an M.D., where my usual dermatologist might have charged me hundreds of dollars more than that. I probably saved about $400 by using Sesame (and Costco) instead of going to a local doctor’s office. 

Possible downsides of Sesame telehealth with Costco pricing 

Overall, I’ve had a great experience with Sesame, and it’s nice to get that extra Costco discount. But there are a few possible drawbacks to be aware of. 

Technology issues 

My first attempt to meet with a clinician via Sesame video chat did not work — the provider never showed up, which was frustrating. Fortunately, I was quickly refunded the $41 fee. But if you’re tired of work video calls where the audio is choppy and someone’s always trying to talk while being on mute, you might be reluctant to bring that same kind of video chat experience to your healthcare conversations.  

Can’t get care for every condition

Sesame offers an impressive range of online (and some in-person) healthcare. But I’m still not sure how online dental visits work, or how you’re supposed to get lab work done via video chat — maybe they give you a referral to a local clinic? 

Not everyone is comfortable with telemedicine and online doctor visits. It’s not appropriate for every health issue or condition. But you might be surprised at how many types of health issues you can get help with via Sesame, and how cheap the visits are, especially with special Costco pricing.

Bottom line 

Healthcare is incredibly expensive and can be hard to access. If you’re tired of waiting for weeks or months to get in to see your local physician or specialist, you might want to try Sesame for convenient online healthcare visits. 

If you have a high deductible health plan (HDHP), you’re already paying for most of your healthcare out of pocket anyway. Sesame lets you pay your healthcare professionals directly and save money — and Costco member pricing on Sesame helps you keep even more money in your savings account. 

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