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Employers Aren't Satisfied With Payers' Mental Health Coverage

Analysis  |  By Jay Asser  
   May 04, 2023

A survey finds health plans have room for improvement in areas such as having accurate behavioral health directories.

Nearly all employers agree that mental health coverage is a vital component of benefits offered to employees, but few are satisfied with their health plan's services, according to a survey by the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions.

The organization polled 221 employers that provide health coverage to over 10 million employees and dependents from February to March 2023 to gauge experiences with coverage networks.

Only 31% of respondents said they were satisfied with network access for behavioral health services, with 99% agreeing that offering mental health coverage is important for employees.

"Supporting the mental health and wellbeing of employees and their families is a top priority for major employers," Mark Wilson, vice president of health and employment policy and chief economist for the HR Policy Association, said in a press release.

"We need to work collaboratively with all stakeholders, especially our health plan and vendor partners, if we are going to be able to provide timely access to affordable, high-quality behavioral health providers."

Additionally, 31% of those surveyed said they were dissatisfied with their health plan's efforts to assess and address gaps in network access, while just 34% of employers reported that their behavioral health directories were accurate.

When it came to quality of care, more than half (54%) of employers said they were satisfied with the promotion of standardized measurement for behavioral health services, but only a third (33%) were satisfied with engagement and reporting of outcomes.

Another area health plans fell short was in supporting, promoting, and incentivizing integration of behavioral health into primary care, with just 28% of respondents expressing satisfaction.

Only 39% of respondents said they were satisfied with their workplace mental health support, despite 92% believing high engagement in workplace programs was important.

Finally, payers missed the mark on health equity, according to employers. A little more than a quarter said they were satisfied with their plans evaluating and tailoring behavioral health services to diverse communities, such as LGBTQ+ and people of color.

"Many of the services provided, particularly in managing network access, continue to fall short of employer expectations," Michael Thompson, National Alliance president and CEO, said in a statement. "While there are bright spots, as an industry we still have a long way to go to meet the needs of employees and their families."

Jay Asser is the contributing editor for strategy at HealthLeaders. 


KEY TAKEAWAYS

The National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions surveyed employers to better understand their level of satisfaction with their health plan's mental health coverage.

Only 31% of employers said they were satisfied with network access for behavioral health services, while just 34% said their provider directories were accurate.

Quality of care, integration of behavioral health into primary care, workplace mental health support, and health equity were also areas that health plans struggled to deliver in.


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