Access to behavioral health has increased in recent years, and health insurance has facilitated this growth, according to a recent study opinion poll America’s Health Insurance Plans, a health insurance advocacy group.
The survey consisted of 14 questions and was distributed to AHIP members providing commercial medical care between May and June. Responses come from payers covering a total of 95 million commercial enrollments. The poll didn’t specify how many members AHIP has, but their website lists over 135.
The number of in-network behavioral health providers increased by 48% over the last three years to 1,851 providers among commercial health insurers. Behavioral health specialists include psychiatrists, psychologists, child or adolescent psychiatrists, licensed therapists, psychiatric nurses, and applied behavioral health analysis specialists. All types of behavioral health saw increases in providers, albeit to varying degrees. Applied behavioral medicine had the highest three-year increase at 135%. The lowest was among psychologists at 11%.
There are also more providers authorized to prescribe drug-assisted treatment, the use of drugs in combination with counseling and therapy. This has increased by 114% in the last three years.
According to the report, not only has the number of providers on the network increased over the past three years, but so has the number of behavioral health facilities on the network. Inpatient psychiatric hospitals increased by 40% and residential/inpatient treatment facilities increased by 34%.
As the number of providers and healthcare facilities connecting for insurers increases, so does their compensation. A majority of respondents with health plans, or 78%, said they had increased reimbursement rates for behavioral health providers.
Here are some additional insights from the report:
- Many health plans also said they intentionally recruit and retain different behavioral health providers, at 83%.
- Efforts are also being made to increase access to behavioral health. A clear majority of insurers – 83% – assist insureds in finding available appointments; 83% reported helping patients with care navigation and support; 78% said they use specialized case managers to follow up patients after emergency care and inpatient treatment.
- According to AHIP, more and more health plans are taking steps to integrate behavioral health into primary care. This includes 72% of health plans that train and support primary care providers to care for patients with mild/moderate behavioral health problems, 72% of primary care providers assist in finding behavioral health practitioner referral partners, and 56% of primary care providers offer telemedicine or telephone consultations with behavioral health professionals.
“Health insurance providers are taking steps to improve mental health care delivery by proactively identifying the behavioral health needs of their members, collaborating with providers, and reducing stigma,” said Kate Berry, senior vice president of clinical affairs and strategic partnerships at AHIP, in a press release. “Although a lot of work has been done, health insurers recognize the need to address systemic challenges. This can only be achieved if all healthcare stakeholders work together to ensure Americans have affordable access to the quality mental health support they deserve.”
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