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Will insurer investments make behavioral healthcare easier – or harder – to access?

A December 29 article in Modern Healthcare outlines how insurers are looking for ways they can get a piece of the pandemic pie – instead of just paying for it.

Telebehavioral health has become critical in providing global access to mental and behavioral health services. While telebehavioral health is not new by any means, it’s experienced an explosion of growth since the onset of COVID-19.

And guess who’s taking advantage of that growth? Yup, health insurance companies.

Modern Healthcare recently rounded up the growing trend of insurance companies investing in or partnering with telehealth companies.

The result? Subsidiaries or investment arms of UnitedHealth Group, Centene, Cigna, CVS/Aetna and BlueCross BlueShield have all put money toward telebehavioral companies including Ginger, Octave, Brightline, Vida Health, Rey and Workit Health.

We’re all for expanding behavioral health access. The problem, however, is that payors have historically been one of the biggest roadblocks.

A primary driver of access challenges is that many mental health professionals refuse to contract in network with insurers because the administrative burden and hassle of actually getting paid from health plans is so great. Ironic, isn’t it?

The rise of telebehavioral health is one of the only silver linings to come out of the pandemic, and it’s absolutely critical that health plans continue to offer members support for issues like anxiety, depression and other mental and behavioral health conditions. Access to telebehavioral health is even more important for those in rural areas, those who are homebound and those who have other transportation challenges.

But it certainly doesn’t surprise us that rather than work with existing providers to streamline the process of treating members, insurers are looking for ways they can get a piece of the pie – instead of just paying for it.

Telebehavioral healthcare is better than no behavioral healthcare, and telebehavioral health owned or associated with your insurer is better than no behavioral healthcare at all.

But do these insurers have the best interest of their members in mind, or are they just interested in the profit they can make? We’ll see how this trend plays out in 2022, but it doesn’t look promising – for patients and providers, that is. But for health insurers like United, BlueCross, Cigna and Centene…well, that’s another story.

Original Article:

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