A health plan's ability to offer access to clinicians in primary and specialty care is crucial to ensuring access to care. New research finds that access to outpatient behavioral health care varies widely; depending on insurance company and level of training, 10-59 percent of clinicians can offer a new patient appointment, with psychiatry appointments particularly difficult to schedule. Using a secret shopper method, three researchers made 1,932 calls to behavioral health clinicians affiliated with three major insurance companies. Extrapolating from these findings, the authors estimate that a patient would need to call seven to 10 psychiatrists in order to find an available appointment. They point out that, given the stigma and fatigue associated with mental illness, difficulty in obtaining an appointment for behavioral health care is of particular concern.
Challenges for Insured Patients in Accessing Behavioral Health Care
MariaElena O. Williams, MD, et al, University of Colorado