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Mental health spending may be up because of COVID-19

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Jun 24, 2020
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Almost a third of workers surveyed had accessed or planned to access mental health care during the pandemic. Fiona Goodall/Getty Images
COVID-19

Mental health spending may be up because of COVID-19

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Jun 24, 2020
Heard on:
Almost a third of workers surveyed had accessed or planned to access mental health care during the pandemic. Fiona Goodall/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
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The COVID-19 pandemic has upended health care spending by employers who offer health insurance. They may save money this year, as some employees put off care because of the pandemic. But they appear to be spending more right now on mental health services, according to a new survey from the accounting firm PwC.

PwC’s Health Research Institute does an annual report on employers’ health care spending. And there’s a big difference this year because of the pandemic. Ben Isgur heads the institute.

“Employers are making mental health a priority because it really is in their interest to keep their people healthy and working productively,” Isgur said.

Isgur said the institute interviewed more than 400 employers and around 12,000 individuals. Almost a third of those workers had accessed mental health care services or were planning to. And employers are offering new benefits.

“Health and wellness apps that might help with meditation, stress reduction,” Isgur said.

Employees are also having virtual visits with counselors. Isgur said employer spending on psychiatry services rose 43% from 2014 to 2018. And they may spend even more this year. JoAnn Volk, at the Georgetown University Center on Health Insurance Reforms, said according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “1 in 3 people are reporting that they are experiencing either anxiety or depression as a result of COVID-19.”

But employer spending on mental health care isn’t unlimited. Michael Urban directs the occupational therapy program at the University of New Haven.

“They may only cover one or two visits, for you to go talk to someone,” Urban said.

Or require you to pay a hefty deductible. And virtual visits don’t work for everyone. Some people — craving face-to-face contact during the pandemic — need in-person counseling, which can cost employers more.

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