Study shows over 50% surge in U.S. mental health spending

A recent study conducted by researchers from RAND Corporation and healthcare company Castlight Health revealed a significant increase in spending on mental health services among Americans with private insurance during the early years of the pandemic. The study, published in JAMA Health Forum, found that from 2019 to 2022, the usage of mental health care services for various disorders, including anxiety, PTSD, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, increased by 38.8% among adults with private insurance. In addition, spending on mental health services saw an even larger increase of 53.7% among privately-insured adults during the same period.

The study analyzed mental health care usage in three phases: pre-pandemic, the acute phase of the pandemic, and the post-acute phase of the pandemic. During the acute phase, in-person services declined by 40%, while telehealth services increased by 10-fold. In the post-acute period, telehealth services remained stable at 10 times the pre-pandemic levels, while in-person services saw a monthly increase of about 2%. As of August 2022, in-person visits were at around 80% of pre-pandemic levels, whereas telehealth visits remained significantly higher.

Researchers anticipate that these trends may change following the end of the formal public health emergency, although it is unclear whether insurers will continue to cover mental health telehealth visits in a post-pandemic world. Throughout the pandemic, concerns surrounding mental health issues have been on the rise, attributed to factors such as limited social interactions and the impact of pandemic-related restrictions. Surveys have shown widespread public concern regarding mental health, with a majority of people believing there is a mental health crisis in the U.S. and many reporting negative impacts on their own mental well-being or that of their children. Experts argue that integrating behavioral care into primary care practices could help address issues related to access, affordability, and stigma, thereby providing more comprehensive care for individuals.


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