Americans increased their spending in this area of wellness according to a JAMA Health Forum study.
A new study published in the JAMA Health Forum scientific journal has shown that mental health was a priority for Americans during the pandemic, leading to an increase in spending with private insurance.
Even after telehealth platform popularity evened out, spending and demand for other services continued.
The spending on mental health continued to increase even after telehealth platform popularity stopped growing. This increase in demand suggested a rising crisis in this area of wellness. Researchers involved in the study expressed concern that there could be less coverage for telehealth services moving forward.
“Insurers may look for ways to curb costs and that could mean less flexibility about using telehealth for mental health services,” said the study’s lead author Jonathan Cantor.
From January 2019 to August 2022, the diagnosis codes were reviewed from about 7 million adult claims for major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. This analysis was conducted by the Rand Corporation and Castlight Health
Researchers examined therapy patterns and care needs through the mental health insurance claims.
Importantly, the researchers were not able to distinguish patients who had already been receiving care before the study period and those who were seeking care services for the first time during the pandemic.
They did determine that the patterns, spending and care needs may have differed for people who were not covered through employer-based private insurance.
They found that both in-person and online treatment services increased across all studied conditions throughout the pandemic. Mental health services spending rose by 53 percent between March 2020 and August 2022. There was a 22 percent increase in these services from March to December 2020, which is considered to be the pandemic’s most acute phase.
By August 2022, service use was 39 percent higher than it was before the pandemic began. That said, in-person services had returned to 80 percent of pre-pandemic levels by August 2022. Monthly spending before the pandemic was about $2.3 million per 10,000 beneficiaries, and that increased to about $3.5 million following the pandemic’s acute period.