Psychiatrists increasingly reject insurance

Despite mental health parity laws for health insurers, half of psychiatrists reject private and federal insurance, according to a study published this week in JAMA Psychiatry.

Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College found the percentage of psychiatrists who accepted private insurance dropped 17 percent between 2005 and 2010. For psychiatrists who accepted Medicare, that percentage fell 19.5 percent during that time.

Medicaid acceptance didn't significantly drop between 2005 and 2010, but it had the lowest acceptance rate among all specialties at 43 percent in 2009 and 2010, according to the study.

In 2009 and 2010, only 55.3 percent of psychiatrists accepted private insurance and 54.8 percent took Medicare, below the 88.7 and 86.1 percent acceptance rates of other specialties.

"In the current climate, where the need for increased mental health services is now recognized, I suspect our study conclusions will be an eye opener for both the public and the medical community," lead author, Tara F. Bishop, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Public Health and Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, said Wednesday in a statement.

The study authors posited that psychiatrists aren't happy with reimbursement rates, according to the statement. They also suggest that since psychiatrists often practice alone, administrative burdens may make them less likely to accept insurance.

The dropping acceptance rates, which may hurt access to mental health services, follows the Obama administration's final rule that increases parity between mental health and substance abuse disorder benefits and their medical and surgical counterparts in health plans nationwide.

However, mental health coverage mandates under the Affordable Care Act may strain the mental health system. So Delaware's insurance commissioner said issuers must certify an adequate network of providers in their exchange plans to help relieve the overburdened system, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the study announcement
- check out the JAMA study abstract