• Quote: Expansion of mental health coverage will “overwhelm if not inundate” the field

    Last year, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, almost 91 million adults lived in areas like here where shortages of mental-health professionals made obtaining treatment difficult. A departmental report to Congress earlier this year said 55% of the nation’s 3,100 counties have no practicing psychiatrists, psychologists or social workers, a combination of budget cuts and doctors leaving the profession. […]

    Such shortages are expected to only grow now, as the federal health-care law goes into effect and allows more people to seek help. Indeed, according to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, some 6.8 million uninsured people with a mental illness will gain coverage after federal and state health insurance exchanges implement the new law. More people will be chasing after scarce resources, an influx that will “overwhelm if not inundate” the field, said Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, president of the American Psychiatric Association.

    Gary Fields and Jennifer Dooren, The Wall Street Journal. Related, see this March 2013 post by Keith Humphreys.


    • I live in a county with 1,623 people for every 1 mental health professional, better than the statewide ratio of 2,217:1. And most people will tell you that mental health access is the county’s most pressing health-related need.

      Parity and other means of access are very much needed, but absolutely scary at the same time without more providers. And more providers who’ll accept private insurance and Medicaid.

    • Free market?
      I would expect that the response of the “free market” to this shortage would be to raise the incentives (pay) for those in this field and encourage more people to participate… that is, unless the free market is broken.
      However, if more people have insurance to cover the services, that should take care of the money part. According to Humphreys, Medicare reimbursement will increase also.
      Does the Wall Street journal not have confidence in the free market?

    • Does this article take into account that most of us in primary care do a lot of mental health treatment? Maybe a 1/4 of what I do today as an internist. I might actually only refer 1 in 10 to psyche.