To Improve Mental Health Benefits, Plans Must Tackle Provider Shortage

Self-funded health plans backed by large employers are expanding the amount and quality of behavioral health benefits available to their members, but a new report prepared by Milliman Inc. shows that those plans’ members will likely have a hard time using those benefits due to provider shortages. One expert says that to overcome entrenched, structural problems in behavioral health access, plan sponsors must employ creative solutions and be willing to boost reimbursement to behavioral health providers.

The Dec. 13 Milliman report indicates there is high demand and poor access to mental health care across the country, confirming what other research and anecdotal evidence has shown in recent years. Public health data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics and analyzed by Milliman confirm that the most dire outcomes of untreated behavioral health conditions, deaths by suicide and overdose, respectively increased by 32% and 376% between 2001 and 2021.

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Peter Johnson

Peter Johnson

Peter has worked as a journalist since 2011 and has covered health care since 2020. At AIS Health, Peter covers trends in finance, business and policy that affect the health insurance and pharma sectors. For Health Plan Weekly, he covers all aspects of the U.S. health insurance sector, including employer-sponsored insurance, Medicaid managed care, Medicare Advantage and the Affordable Care Act individual marketplaces. In Radar on Drug Benefits, Peter covers the operations of (and conflicts between) pharmacy benefit managers and pharmaceutical manufacturers, with a particular focus on pricing dynamics and market access. Before joining AIS Health, Peter covered transportation, public safety and local government for various outlets in Seattle, his hometown and current place of residence. He graduated with a B.A. from Colby College.

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