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Psychiatrists are less likely to take Insurance

Update Date: Dec 12, 2013 09:38 AM EST

Even though receiving medical care is extremely important for one's overall health, due to the high costs and lack of insurance coverage, some people are forced to skip treatment. In a new study, researchers found that people might be missing out on mental healthcare more so than physical healthcare. The research team discovered that psychiatrists are less likely to accept private health insurance when compared to other doctors.

"In the wake of the school killings in Newtown, Conn., and other recent mass shootings, the need for increased mental health services is now recognized. But unless patients have deep pockets, they may have a hard time finding a psychiatrist who will treat them," lead author, Dr. Tara F. Bishop from Weill Cornell Medical College in New York said according to the New York Times.

In this review, Bishop reported that 55 percent of psychiatrists would accept private insurance. This rate is extremely low when compared to the 89 percent of other doctors who accept private insurance. The researchers reported that the rate has also declined from 2005 to 2006 when 72 percent of psychiatrists accepted insurance. Furthermore, 55 percent of psychiatrists accept patients with Medicare whereas 86 percent of other doctors do. For Medicaid, 43 percent of psychiatrists and 73 percent of doctors accept this kind of government insurance. The data came from the U.S. government and was gathered between 2005 and 2010. Each year of data included roughly 1,250 doctors with six percent of them being psychiatrists.

The difference between the acceptance rates of both categories is alarming. Mental health has always been stigmatized and in order to get more people treated, insurance coverage should be fairer. According to the background information, mental health care is categorized as an "essential health benefit" that must be covered under the new health care law. Despite the fact that the law requires insurers to provide equal coverage for mental and physical illnesses, this study revealed that fixing the problem with mental health care would be a lot more difficult since mental health doctors do not accept a lot of the insurance policies.

"Even if you have good insurance that covers mental health care, you may still have a problem if there's no doctor who accepts your insurance," Dr. Bishop said.

"Many psychiatrists do not take insurance," said Dr.Steven S. Sharfstein, who is president of the Sheppard Pratt Health System in Baltimore. Sharfstein was a former president of the American Psychiatric Association. "They have an out-of-pocket practice. They charge what they can, but they are flexible and will set rates on a sliding scale."

The research was published in JAMA Psychiatry.

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