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
Share Now on:
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.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Will the federal government extend the extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

It’s still unclear. Congress and President Donald Trump are deciding whether to extend the extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits workers are getting because of the pandemic. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia believes the program should not be extended, and White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the additional money is disincentivizing some workers from returning to their jobs. Democrats want to keep providing the money until January.

As states lift restrictions, are people going back to stores and restaurants?

States have relaxed their restrictions, and many of us have relaxed, too. Some people have started to make exceptions for visiting restaurants, if only for outdoor dining. Some are only going to places they trust are being extra cautious. But no one we’ve talked to has really gone back to normal. People just aren’t quite there yet.

Will surges in COVID-19 cases mean a return to lockdowns?

In many areas where businesses are reopening, cases of COVID-19 are trending upwards, causing some to ask if the lockdowns were lifted too soon, and if residents and businesses might have to go through it all again. So, how likely is another lockdown, of some sort? The answer depends on who you ask. Many local officials are now bullish about keeping businesses open to salvage their economies. Health experts, though, are concerned.

You can find answers to more questions here.

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