Availability of Network Psychiatrists Among the Largest Health Insurance Carriers in Washington, D.C.
OBJECTIVE: Lack of access to mental health treatment remains a significant problem in the United States, even after implementation of mental health parity legislation. This study examined availability of psychiatrists listed in insurance carrier network provider databases in the Washington, D.C., area.
METHODS: Contact information was obtained for 1,184 psychiatrists listed in online directories for three of the largest insurance carriers serving the Washington, D.C., area. The "mystery shopper" method was used to assess the accuracy of listed contact information, new outpatient appointment availability, and average wait times for 50 psychiatrists randomly selected from each insurance directory.
RESULTS: Most (77%) physicians were successfully contacted, meaning that someone answered the phone or returned a voice mail message, and 51% of the psychiatrists had working telephone numbers verified to be correct. Fifteen percent of the psychiatrists were accepting new outpatients with the target insurance, with average wait times of 19 days; only 7% were able to schedule an appointment within two weeks.
CONCLUSIONS: Inaccuracy of insurance provider directories significantly affected the ability of patients to obtain timely mental care.
Published In/Presented At
Blech, B., West, J. C., Yang, Z., Barber, K. D., Wang, P., & Coyle, C. (2017). Availability of Network Psychiatrists Among the Largest Health Insurance Carriers in Washington, D.C. Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.), 68(9), 962–965. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ps.201600454
Medicine and Health Sciences
Department of Medicine