Increases in Insurance Coverage for Behavioral Health Lead to Concerns of Provider Shortage

hhsacainsInsurance coverage for behavioral health increased for Americans through the passage of the Affordable Care Act, but the demand for mental health and addiction treatment services hasn’t noticeably changed yet. This could be a result of a combination of factors. The first is that some states haven’t expanded Medicaid coverage. Another is that patients aren’t aware of the benefits to which their new insurance plans give them access.

The question is: when these stop gaps are filled, will there be enough healthcare providers to treat those who seek treatment for substance abuse and mental health disorders?

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found tens of millions of people are in need of behavioral health treatment. Without healthcare coverage, people are more likely to postpone or skip treatment all together. Foregoing treatment for behavioral health disorders could lead to increased substance abuse, homelessness, unemployment and even suicide.

With the updated Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (2008), insurance companies are now required to provide the same coverages for substance abuse and mental illness as they would provide for medical or surgical procedures. A plan that covers behavioral health now covers many inpatient or outpatient services, emergency care and medications used to treat substance abuse. When the law was passed, one-third of those with private insurance did not have coverage for substance abuse, opening treatment opportunities for those who could previously not afford it.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, over half of U.S. counties, all rural, do not have a practicing psychiatrist, psychologists or social workers. The agency estimates a shortage of more than 7,500 psychiatrists and other professionals trained in mental healthcare.

“There has always been a long-standing shortage,” said Bob Carolla, a spokesman for the National Alliance for Mental Health. Carolla said that expanding healthcare is good, but healthcare providers need to be prepared to handle the growing demand for it.

If you have health insurance coverage and would like a complimentary substance abuse benefits check, contact Addiction Treatment Services today to find out some effective rehabilitation options.