Nov 7, 2019 - Health

Disparities persist in mental health coverage

Privately insured people suffering from drug and alcohol addiction or mental health conditions pay more out-of-pocket for care and are more likely to see out-of-network providers than people with chronic physical health conditions, according to a new study in JAMA Network Open.

Between the lines: These costs prevent people from receiving care. The study used data from 2012–2017, a time frame during which the opioid epidemic was ravaging communities across the country.

By the numbers: Patients with mental health conditions spent $341 more on cost-sharing for out-of-network care than people with diabetes did.

  • People with drug use disorders spent $1,242 more, and those with alcohol use disorders spent $1,138 more.

This disparity is partially a result of how infrequently behavioral health providers participate in insurance networks.

  • "Combined with high demand and low rates of reimbursement, the workforce scarcity of behavioral health clinicians can represent the weakest component of health plan networks," the authors write.

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