A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of June 2022 U.S. Census data found that - nationwide - 32.8% of people reported symptoms of depression or anxiety, up from 11% in 2019. The demand for more accessible mental health support is urgent and growing. And employer-provided health plans, which cover more than half of Americans, offer vital services to those in need of support and counseling. In fact, 41 million people – nearly 1 in 4 Americans – received mental health support through their employer-provided coverage in 2020. That includes 6 million children who received mental health services and treatment through a parent or guardian’s employer plan.
A 2022 AHIP member survey of health insurance providers highlighted how commercial insurance plans including employer-provided plans are making high-quality mental health care more accessible and affordable for millions of Americans. The survey compiled responses from health insurance providers that cover more than 95 million people, and found that commercial health plans are expanding benefits, increasing the number of in-network providers, and connecting consumers to care.
Growing mental health care provider networks
The AHIP survey of health insurance providers found that commercial health plans average 1,851 in-network behavioral health care providers per 100,000 enrollees. This represents a 48% increase over the past 3 years.
Health insurance providers have consciously grown their behavioral and mental health networks at all levels of care - psychiatrists, licensed therapists, and other behavioral health providers - through both active recruitment (89% of those surveyed are actively recruiting mental health care providers), and increasing provider payments (78% have increased reimbursements to in-network providers).
Furthermore, all of the commercial health plans surveyed provide in-network coverage for tele-behavioral health services - making it easier for patients to access a larger network of care providers, even if they are in traditionally underserved areas. For those who receive coverage through their jobs, tele-mental health services deliver critical access to support.
“Employer-provided coverage has been essential to so many people,” said Dr. Jenny Martin. “Specifically telehealth interventions with behavioral health has been something that truly has saved lives.”
Connecting patients to care
More than half of patients with employer-provided coverage who sought mental health support in 2020 received care through their Primary Care Provider (PCP). PCPs know their patients best, and are often the first encounter a person has with the health care system when they have a concern. Health insurance providers are delivering mental health training and support to PCPs as well as easing referrals to specialists and beefing up access to telehealth services so these front-line health care providers can more easily address their patients’ mental health needs.
Health insurance providers are also assisting patients directly. The vast majority of commercial plans surveyed (83%) help members find available appointments with behavioral health providers, and help patients navigate their care and access other types of support - including transportation or community organizations.
Employers continue to invest in employees’ well-being
Health insurance providers also work directly with employers to offer additional access to services for employees who receive coverage through work. 4 out of 5 employers offer employee-assistance programs (EAP) as a benefit to support mental health and assist with non-medical issues that impact work and home life.
“Mental health coverage, in particular, is one of those ways that we can say, ‘yes, we really care,’” according to Susan Blue, President and CEO of Community Services Group. As an employer, Susan recognizes how important it is to support the mental and emotional needs of her employees.
Employer-provided coverage is a vital resource for the nearly 180 million Americans who rely on it for high-quality, affordable health care and financial peace of mind. Mental health is an important part of one's overall health and well-being. Health insurance providers are building on what works, connecting members to the right care at the right time.