More employers offer mental health services, but gaps remain

Although there is a great reliance on telehealth, 30% there are still not enough providers

Last month, Karen S. Lynch, president and CEO of CVS Health, wrote in an op-ed that employers need to play a bigger role in their employees’ mental health, including being transparent and open about their own issues. mental health, to make their employees more comfortable doing so as well, to increase access to mental health care and to encourage peer support so that employees can learn from each other to get help.

Now, a new Kaiser Family Foundation survey reveals that large companies are doing the latter part the least, as 27% of large employers have added mental health providers, either in physical offices or virtually via telehealth, to networks. of their plan to expand access this year.

The survey, which was completed by 2,188 public and private companies with three or more employees between February and July 2022, found that companies provide these services because they saw the need among their employees: 48% of companies said they were seeing an increase in the number of their workers using mental health care services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, while 29% said more workers were seeking family leave due to concerns of mental health.

Meanwhile, 14% said they saw an increase in the proportion of workers using substance abuse services, while 43% said they were at least somewhat concerned about the growth of substance use conditions among their workers. .

Telemedicine has been a major boon for those employers looking to provide care for their employees, as more than half expect telemedicine to be “very important” in providing behavioral health services, compared to 35% saying that it will be “very important” to provide primary care. , and 24% who say the same for specialist care (24%).

This is likely because telehealth has remained a popular tool for mental health visits, even as the pandemic has waned: while overall telehealth visits have fallen significantly from their peak, when they were 13 % of all outpatient visits between March and August of 2020, the same cannot be said for mental health; telehealth accounted for 40% of mental health and addiction outpatient visits and still accounts for 36% of those outpatient visits.

Thus, almost all large companies, 96% of them, now cover some form of telemedicine services: 46% provide them directly through their health plan, 32% provide them through a specialized telemedicine provider and 20% provide both.

However, telemedicine does not solve all problems; even with these additions, 30% of large employers say their networks do not have enough behavioral healthcare providers to ensure their workers have timely access to care.

Access to mental health services remains a major issue: in 2020, 1 in 15 American adults suffered from both a substance use disorder and a mental illness, and more than 12 million had serious suicidal thoughts; yet 17.7 million experienced delayed or canceled appointments, 7.3 million experienced delays in getting prescriptions, and 4.9 million were unable to access needed care at all.

“Many large employers are struggling to add enough mental health and addictions care providers to meet the growing needs of their workers,” said Gary Claxton, KFF senior vice president and director of the Health Care Marketplace Project. , in a press release.

“Most see telemedicine as an important part of the solution.”

(Image source: insuranceregulation.com)

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