As we round out the second year of the pandemic, many people are frustrated at the unavailability of local mental health services. Many therapists are booked for weeks; for anyone looking urgently for therapy, this can be a daunting predicament.
How did this labor shortage come to be? Here are a few observations as a psychiatrist and therapist with five decades of experience.
1. Insurance companies have not made things easy.
They have been cutting rates for years, auditing providers, clawing back fees, and generally making mental health coverage challenging, if not impossible, to find and navigate. Most insurance companies have inadequate panels.
A recent article in the Washington Post documents the way insurance companies often claim to have providers that they either do not have or who are unavailable. One patient was quoted as having called 73 doctors on the insurance company’s panel, none of whom was available for at least two months.
When it is nearly impossible to find in-network providers—even though the companies are required to have adequate panels in order to remain legally operational—we should smell a rat. If they aren’t helping you find an in-network provider qualified to treat your (or your children’s) condition, start shopping for another insurance company and report them to DFR.