COVID-19

Mental health spending may be up because of COVID-19

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Jun 24, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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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
Almost a third of workers surveyed had accessed or planned to access mental health care during the pandemic. Fiona Goodall/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

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.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Are states ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccines?

Claire Hannan, executive director of the nonprofit Association of Immunization Managers, which represents state health officials, said states have been making good progress in their preparations. And we could have several vaccines pretty soon. But states still need more funding, she said. Hannan doesn’t think a lack of additional funding would hold up distribution initially, but it could cause problems down the road. “It’s really worrisome that Congress may not pass funding or that there’s information circulating saying that states don’t need additional funding,” she said.

How is the service industry dealing with the return of coronavirus restrictions?

Without another round of something like the Paycheck Protection Program, which kept a lot of businesses afloat during the pandemic’s early stages, the outlook is bleak for places like restaurants. Some in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, only got one week of indoor dining back before cases rose and restrictions went back into effect. Restaurant owners are revamping their business models in an effort to survive while waiting to see if they’ll be able to get more aid.

How are hospitals handling the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases?

As the pandemic surges and more medical professionals themselves are coming down with COVID, nearly 1 in 5 hospitals in the country report having a critical shortage of staff, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the knock-on effects of staff shortages is that people who have other medical needs are being asked to wait.

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