“If greater utilization of health services drives higher health care spending, insurers may begin pushing back on the new status quo,” said Jonathan Cantor, lead author of the study and a policy researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organisation. The researchers analysed claims from approximately 7 million commercially insured adults from January 2019 to August 2022 to examine trends in mental health services following the start of the pandemic. The conditions examined were anxiety disorders, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and PTSD.
The researchers found that during the acute phase of the pandemic (March 2020 to December 2020), in-person mental health services dropped by 40 percent, while tele-mental health services increased roughly 10-fold as compared to the year prior. Overall, there was a 22 percent increase in the use of mental health services during the period, the study said.Moreover, tele-mental health service utilization stabilized at roughly ten times pre-pandemic levels during the post-acute period (December 2020 to August 2022).
In-person mental health services, on the other hand, increased by 2.2 percent per month during the same time period. In-person mental health services had returned to 80 percent of pre-pandemic levels by August 2022. Overall, mental health service use was nearly 39 percent higher in August 2022 than before the pandemic.
“The changes that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic have triggered a significant expansion in the use of mental health services among adults with employer-based health insurance,” Cantor said. “It remains uncertain whether this trend will continue or return to levels similar to those seen before the pandemic,” he added.
- Telehealth and In-Person Mental Health Service Utilization and Spending, 2019 to 2022 – (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama-health-forum/fullarticle/2808748)