As the US mental health crisis worsens, the nation’s largest health insurers are expanding their network of providers.
UnitedHealth Group, parent company of the nation’s largest health insurer, UnitedHealthcare, said at its annual investor conference this week that it has expanded its already huge network of behavioral health providers by 25% to 375,000 from about 300,000 in 2020.
“The demand for effective and evidence-based behavioral health has never been greater,” says Dr. Wyatt Decker, chief executive officer at UnitedHealth Group’s Optum Health unit. “In recent years, we have taken a conscious approach to increasing access by expanding our network and aligning our behavioral health services to better support the millions of people we serve.”
According to the health insurance companies, these behavioral therapists can be psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, social workers and specialist nurses.
“We guide people to the right care for their unique needs across the full range of an individual’s behavioral needs, from education to digital self-help tools, medication management to higher levels of behavioral health care, both in-person and virtual, including critical incident response services,” UnitedHealth said in a statement. a report it released this week as part of its 2023 business outlook. “We serve more than 42 million people through a network of 375,000 behavioral health professionals. In addition, Optum’s growing team of nearly 4,500 healthcare providers supports millions of patient sessions each year.”
Other health insurers are also expanding their behavioral health networks by fusing medical and mental health benefits into insurance plans they sell. It’s part of all health insurance companies’ strategy to cover the “whole person.”
For example, Cigna has more than 250,000 “in-network” behavioral health providers and continues to grow its network “aggressively,” the company said. Specifically, Cigna “expanded the network of providers specializing in the treatment of teens by 34% and those specializing in cultural and ethnic issues by 20%,” the company said.
“With the urgent and growing demand for mental health care, we have doubled the size of our network over the past five years to give our clients faster and easier access to clinicians that meet their specialized needs, ages and languages,” said Eva Borden, president of behavioral health at Cigna’s Evernorth healthcare company. “Whether you are a parent of a child showing signs of ADHD, a teen with suicidal thoughts, or an adult addicted, our clients can meet with highly specialized clinicians in person, over the phone, app, or a combination, and get care faster. get than ever before.”