San Fransisco: Expenditure on mental health services for Americans covered by private health insurance has surged by over 50 percent since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. This increase has persisted even as the utilization of telehealth services has leveled off, as indicated by a recent study.
The research, featured in the JAMA Health Forum, reveals that spending on mental health services witnessed a 53 percent rise from March 2020 to August 2022 among a sizable cohort of individuals possessing employer-provided insurance.
Lead author of the study, Jonathan Cantor, who serves as a policy researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization, remarked, “If increased utilization of healthcare services results in higher healthcare expenditures, insurance providers might begin to challenge the new prevailing situation.”
In their investigation, the researchers scrutinized claims data from approximately 7 million adults with commercial insurance, spanning from January 2019 to August 2022, in order to trace the patterns in mental health service utilization subsequent to the onset of the pandemic.
The specific mental health conditions under scrutiny encompassed anxiety disorders, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and PTSD.
The study uncovered that during the acute phase of the pandemic (March 2020 to December 2020), in-person mental health services experienced a 40 per cent decline, while tele-mental health services surged by approximately 10 times in comparison to the preceding year.
Over the entire period, there was a 22 percent upswing in the utilization of mental health services, as indicated by the study.
Furthermore, the use of tele-mental health services stabilized at around ten times the pre-pandemic levels during the post-acute phase (December 2020 to August 2022). Conversely, in-person mental health services registered a monthly increase of 2.2 percent during the same time span.
By August 2022, in-person mental health services had rebounded to 80 percent of their pre-pandemic levels. Overall, the utilization of mental health services was almost 39 percent higher in August 2022 compared to the period before the pandemic.
Throughout the post-pandemic phase, the average monthly expenditure per 10,000 beneficiaries surpassed $3.5 million, as opposed to approximately $2.3 million during the pre-pandemic era, in accordance with the study’s findings.
Cantor noted, “The transformations brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic have sparked a noteworthy expansion in the utilization of mental health services among working-age adults who have employer-based health insurance.” He also added that it remains uncertain whether this trend will persist or revert to levels akin to those observed prior to the pandemic.