A new study by Harvard Medical School researchers published today [July 21] in the Annals of Emergency Medicine finds that access to outpatient psychiatric care in the greater Boston area is severely limited, even for people with reputedly excellent private health insurance. Given that the federal health law is modeled after the Massachusetts health reform, the findings have national implications, the researchers say.
Study personnel posed as patients insured by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts PPO, the largest insurer in Massachusetts. They called every Blue Cross-contracted mental health facility within a 10-mile radius of downtown Boston, stating they had been evaluated in an emergency department for depression and discharged with instructions to obtain a psychiatric appointment within two weeks – i.e. they signaled they needed urgent care.
Only 8 of the 64 facilities (12.5 percent) listed by Blue Cross as preferred providers offered appointments; only 4 (6.2 percent) offered an appointment within two weeks. These findings indicate that even patients with top-drawer private insurance face grave difficulties in securing mental health services in the Boston area.
According to the study, 23 percent of phone calls seeking appointments were never returned, even after a second attempt. Another common reason appointments were unavailable was that 23 percent of psychiatric providers required that the patient already be enrolled with a primary care doctor affiliated with their psychiatric facility.
"People with mental health problems often can't advocate for themselves – especially in a crisis," said lead author Dr. J. Wesley Boyd, an attending psychiatrist at the Harvard-affiliated Cambridge Health Alliance. "Health insurers know this and yet, thanks to their restrictive provider networks and their low reimbursement rates for psychiatric services, they've created a situation where a patient with a potentially life-threatening disorder, such as the severe depression portrayed in our callers' scenario, is essentially abandoned at a time of great need."
"Despite having private coverage, our simulated patient faced daunting barriers when trying to access psychiatric care," Boyd continued. "How likely is it that a real patient in the grip of severe depression would persevere through so many unsuccessful attempts?"
Senior author Dr. Rachel Nardin, chief of neurology at Cambridge Health Alliance, said: "The incentives of the current health insurance system are aligned against patients with mental illness. Insurers try to protect their bottom line by reimbursing poorly for psychiatric services and by constraining their in-network provider lists, both of which limit patients' options so severely as to make services essentially unavailable."
"Lack of adequate access to mental health care strains our entire health care system," said Nardin. "Emergency departments are overwhelmed with boarding psychiatric patients for whom no other resources exist."
"A good first step would be for insurance companies to immediately provide improved reimbursements for psychiatric care," Nardin said. "A more fundamental solution, however, would be to remove private insurers from the picture altogether and to establish a single-payer national health insurance program – a program that would cover mental health services as part of its comprehensive benefits package."
"The crisis in mental health care: A preliminary study of access to psychiatric care in Boston," J. Wesley Boyd, M.D., Ph.D.; Andrew Linsenmeyer, M.D.; Steffie Woolhandler, M.D., M.P.H.; David Himmelstein, M.D.; Rachel Nardin, M.D. Annals of Emergency Medicine, July 21, 2011.
Physicians for a National Health Program (www.pnhp.org) is an 18,000-member organization advocating a nonprofit, single-payer national health insurance program for the United States. PNHP had no role in funding the study mentioned above. To speak with a physician/spokesperson in your area, visit www.pnhp.org/stateactions or call (312) 782-6006.
Mark Almberg | EurekAlert!
Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung
High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.
Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine
21.10.2016 | Information Technology
21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences