Second, they can invest in infrastructure to support screening and treatment of mental health conditions in more accessible primary care settings. Incorporating mental health treatment into primary care is facilitated by recent changes to the Medicare billing code that allow providers to be specifically reimbursed for these services.
Third, they can ensure continued access to telehealth services after the COVID-19 pandemic by investing in technical infrastructure for both providers and patients, and integrating telehealth into their processes. existing medical workflow.
In addition, action on the part of payers and policymakers is critical. For payers, state Medicaid programs must significantly improve reimbursement rates for mental health care. Medicaid reimbursements are so low for some mental health providers that many of them have to take second jobs, lead to high staff turnover and significantly limit access to mental health services. access to care. Increasing reimbursement could help pave the way for well-staffed community mental health clinics in every neighborhood.
Policymakers can enforce requirements on private insurance plans to fully cover mental health services and provide an adequate network of providers, according to plan in the 2023 budget of the Biden administration. Taking this step will give more than 60% of Americans on private insurance plans real access to mental health care. Although the Mental Health and Substance Equality Act was enacted in 2008, disparities in mental health coverage compared to medical care persist due to limitations in the law and lack of enforcement. This disparity has made it difficult for people with mental health conditions, including those at risk of suicide, to find providers or claim treatment denied by insurance plans. their. Of course, policymakers also have important roles to play in supporting the recruitment and retention of mental health clinicians, enabling full reimbursement of services provided via telehealth. and encourage Medicaid to increase reimbursement rates.
While research funding is important, health system leaders, payers and policymakers need to focus on significantly increasing spending on mental health care to expand access to mental health care. Americans access to services and improve outcomes. Simply calling for more research money is not enough. Support for additional research needs to be combined with making the more difficult, costly, and politically controversial systemic changes needed to put what we already know into practice. Otherwise, empty calls for more research could be tantamount to “forming a committee to study the issue.” We already know a lot about what needs to be done to improve the mental health and well-being of Americans. Use that knowledge to make the necessary life-saving changes now.
The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the opinions of the University of Pennsylvania Health System or the Perelman School of Medicine.