Mental health spending may be up because of COVID-19
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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.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
What do I need to know about tax season this year?
Glad you asked! We have a whole separate FAQ section on that. Some quick hits: The deadline has been extended from April 15 to May 17 for individuals. Also, millions of people received unemployment benefits in 2020 — up to $10,200 of which will now be tax-free for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000. And, for those who filed before the American Rescue Plan passed, simply put, you do not need to file an amended return at the moment. Find answers to the rest of your questions here.
How long will it be until the economy is back to normal?
It feels like things are getting better, more and more people getting vaccinated, more businesses opening, but we’re not entirely out of the woods. To illustrate: two recent pieces of news from the Centers for Disease Control. Item 1: The CDC is extending its tenant eviction moratorium to June 30. Item 2: The cruise industry didn’t get what it wanted — restrictions on sailing from U.S. ports will stay in place until November. Very different issues with different stakes, but both point to the fact that the CDC thinks we still have a ways to go before the pandemic is over, according to Dr. Philip Landrigan, who used to work at the CDC and now teaches at Boston College.
How are those COVID relief payments affecting consumers?
Payments started going out within days of President Joe Biden signing the American Rescue Plan, and that’s been a big shot in the arm for consumers, said John Leer at Morning Consult, which polls Americans every day. “Consumer confidence is really on a tear. They are growing more confident at a faster rate than they have following the prior two stimulus packages.” Leer said this time around the checks are bigger and they’re getting out faster. Now, rising confidence is likely to spark more consumer spending. But Lisa Rowan at Forbes Advisor said it’s not clear how much or how fast.
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