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Spending on mental health services up by over 50% since start of Covid: Study

Mental health.. Image Source: IANS News

San Francisco, Aug 26 : Spending on mental health services among Americans with private health insurance has increased by more than 50 per cent since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, and it has continued to rise even as telehealth use has stabilised, a new study has said.

According to the study published in the journal JAMA Health Forum, spending on mental health services increased by 53 per cent from March 2020 to August 2022 among a large group of people with employer-provided insurance.

“If greater utilisation of health services drives higher health care spending, insurers may begin pushing back on the new status quo,” said Jonathan Cantor, lead author of the study and a policy researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organisation.

The researchers analysed claims from approximately 7 million commercially insured adults from January 2019 to August 2022 to examine trends in mental health services following the start of the pandemic.

The conditions examined were anxiety disorders, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and PTSD.

The researchers found that during the acute phase of the pandemic (March 2020 to December 2020), in-person mental health services dropped by 40 per cent, while tele-mental health services increased roughly 10-fold as compared to the year prior.

Overall, there was a 22 per cent increase in the use of mental health services during the period, the study said.

Moreover, tele-mental health service utilisation stabilised at roughly ten times pre-pandemic levels during the post-acute period (December 2020 to August 2022). In-person mental health services, on the other hand, increased by 2.2 per cent per month during the same time period.

In-person mental health services had returned to 80 per cent of pre-pandemic levels by August 2022. Overall, mental health service use was nearly 39 per cent higher in August 2022 than before the pandemic.

During the post-pandemic period, the average monthly spending rate per 10,000 beneficiaries was more than $3.5 million, compared to around $2.3 million during the pre-pandemic period, according to the study.

“The changes that occurred during the Covid-19 pandemic have triggered a significant expansion in the use of mental health services among adults with employer-based health insurance,” Cantor said.

“It remains uncertain whether this trend will continue or return to levels similar to those seen before the pandemic,” he added.

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