Behavioral Health

Healthcare News of Note: Nearly half of Americans live in areas with inadequate access to mental health workers

June 23, 2023 8:00 am
  • Although nearly 50% of Americans live in a mental health workforce shortage area, there are steps that can increase the workforce and prevent burnout among these professionals.
  • The two health insurance coverage trends responsible for driving an increase in medical debt are inadequate healthcare coverage and high-deductible health plans.
  • Forty-four healthcare businesses are among 200 companies named as some of the best places to work in the United States.

Over the past few weeks, I have found these industry news stories that should be of interest to healthcare finance professionals.   

1. Nearly 50% of Americans live in an area where there are too few mental healthcare professionals

Although “49% of Americans live in a mental health workforce shortage area,” there are things that can be done to increase the workforce and prevent burnout among such professionals, according to a new infographic by the National institute for Health Care Management (NIHCM).

Two-thirds of shortage areas are in rural or partially rural parts of the country, according to NIHCM.

Reasons for lack of access to care

Despite the 1.3 million clinical workers in the U.S. providing services to those with mental health issues, the infographic states that many individuals find it difficult to access care because of:

  • A shortage of providers (currently there is a shortage of 8,200 psychiatrists, with shortages expected in other behavioral health areas)
  • Increased demand for services (79% increase in patients seeking help for anxiety disorders, 66% increase for depressive disorders and 64% for trauma and/or stress-related issues)
  • A lack of diversity among providers (e.g., 81% of psychologists are white)

Some 700,000 behavioral health workers, including psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, counselors, and marriage and family therapists; and 600,000 additional providers, such as primary care physicians and advanced practice providers, make up the behavioral healthcare workforce, according to NIHCM.

Strategies to bolster the mental health workforce

A few of the “various strategies to enhance the behavioral healthcare workforce” presented by NIHCM include:

  • Addressing barriers to education. Not only are scholarship programs more effective for recruitment generally than loan repayment programs, they also are more effective for recruiting students from diverse backgrounds.
  • Leverage the existing workforce to increase access. Interstate licensure simplification would allow counselors “to easily practice across state lines,” for example.
  • Support the workforce. Addressing burnout, reducing administrative burden, providing financial investment in the workforce pipeline and improving payment to providers are some examples.

2. What 2 trends are driving an increase in medical debt in the United States?

“Inadequate health care coverage and high-deductible health plans that intentionally push more costs onto patients” are the two health insurance coverage trends responsible for “driving an increase in medical debt,” according to a newly released American Hospital Association (AHA) fact sheet.

High-deductible plans “leave individuals financially vulnerable when seeking medical care, despite being insured,” wrote the authors.

Additional ramification of rising healthcare costs

Another consequence of the increased cost of healthcare being shouldered by patients is the rise in patients not taking prescribed medications to cut costs. Some 9.2 million people in the United States in 2021 “reported not taking medications as prescribed due to cost, employing such strategies as skipping doses, taking less than the prescribed dose, or delaying filling a prescription,” according to a National Center for Health Statistics brief released in June.

“Further, variation was seen in the percentage of adults not taking medication as prescribed by demographic and socioeconomic characteristics as well as by disability status and health status, health insurance, and prescription drug coverage,” wrote the authors.

Solutions to alleviate medical debt

The AHA proposes several solutions to help alleviate medical debt including:

  • Restricting the sale of high-deductible health plans to only those individuals with the demonstrated means to afford the associated cost-sharing.
  • Prohibiting the sale of health-sharing ministry products and short-term, limited-duration plans that go longer than 90 days.
  • Lowering the maximum out-of-pocket cost-sharing limits.

Hospital levels of uncompensated care in 2020

“Hospitals and health systems of all types provided more than $42 billion in uncompensated care — care for which they received no payment — in 2020 alone,” the authors wrote.

They added, “While every hospital has a financial assistance policy to help those most in need, they can only help so much and so many. No matter how generous, hospital financial assistance will never be a substitute for a health insurance plan that covers preventive and necessary care at an affordable price on the front and back end of coverage.”

Additional resources

Review the October 2022 blog “Healthcare News of Note: Even many people with ‘good’ health insurance incur medical debt.”

3. 44 healthcare firms named among the best companies to work for by U.S. News

Forty-four healthcare businesses are among 200 companies named as some of the best places to work in the United States, according to a new report published by U.S. News and World Report.

“‘Best’ is a subjective term relative to career satisfaction, and there are many aspects that factor into someone’s decision to apply for a job with any given company,” wrote the authors.

But they described “some universally desired factors that can contribute to a good workplace,” which are the six metrics U.S. News uses to determine the “Best Companies to Work For.”

6 factors to determine the best companies

Those six factors are quality of pay and benefits, work/life balance and flexibility, job and company stability, physical and psychological comfort, belongingness and esteem, and career opportunities and professional development.

Best healthcare businesses

Below are some of the healthcare companies that made the listing (in alphabetical order):

  1. Abbott
  2. Cigna
  3. CVS
  4. HCA
  5. Humana
  6. Johnson & Johnson
  7. Moderna
  8. Pfizer
  9. UnitedHealthcare

Other major sectors represented in the report, which lists individual company benefits and rewards, include finance and IT. 

HFMA bonus content

Read the June 15 article: “As anticipated, the start of the Medicaid unwinding process has taken a toll on coverage,” by Nick Hut, senior editor with HFMA.

Listen to the recent Voices in Healthcare Finance podcast episode, “Interoperability rule enforcement is coming. Are you ready?” with host Erika Grotto. In this episode, Rita Bowen of MRO discusses why some organizations are choosing not to ready themselves for interoperability until enforcement begins and how reproductive care can throw a wrench into the process.

 Read original content from the Summer issue of hfm, including these features:


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