By Consumers for Quality Care, on March 8, 2023
A shortage of professional mental health providers, coupled with systemic barriers instituted by insurance companies not accepting mental and behavioral health specialists in their network, prevent many Nevadans from accessing the health care services they need, according to the Nevada Current.
Data shows that denial rates of mental health providers seeking to join insurance networks more than doubled in Nevada from 2020 to 2021. The top reason for denials, according to the Nevada Department of Insurance (DOI), was insurers’ “not accepting new care providers within a specialty or no network need.” This is despite the fact that every county in Nevada meets the federal qualification of having a professional mental health provider shortage. The state has roughly 460 licensed psychologists, which is approximately 12 psychologists per 100,000 residents, about one-third of the national average. In some counties, consumers are facing a 2-year waitlist to see a psychologist.
Although insurance companies are supposed to treat mental health services the same as medical care, this is seldom the case. Last year, for example, the U.S. Department of Labor, the Department of Health & Human Services, and the U.S. Treasury Department investigated 30 health insurance plans and issuers. Their investigation found that all 30 were out of compliance with federal mental health parity requirements. According to their investigative report, the two main reasons for noncompliance were onerous preauthorization requirements and laborious network provider admission standards.
Making issues worse, Nevada is one of just 15 states without an “Any Willing Provider” law, which requires health insurance carriers to allow providers to become members of their network as long as they meet the carrier’s conditions.
“Here we are with providers who have open spaces but that can’t get credentialed because (the insurance companies say) there are too many providers. Yet we have waitlists,” says Michelle McGuire, a psychologist in Las Vegas.
In the legislature, stakeholders have been lobbying to pass an “Any Willing Provider” law. But these advocates, who include Dr. Marc Kahn, Dean of the UNLV School of Medicine, face an uphill battle. “A lot of the big insurance companies don’t want them because they want narrow options that limit their expenses,” Kahn said.
These barriers make it harder and harder for consumers to find a mental health professional and access the care they need. “It’s a hopeless process if they just call and call and call,” says Aimee D’Errico, a licensed marriage and family therapist. “They’re already seeking services because something has gone wrong in their lives, and they’re at the point where they can’t handle it, and then to go through this process is so detrimental to the mental health problems.”
CQC urges lawmakers and regulators to prioritize mental health care parity and take action to ensure all patients have access to the mental health care they need.