Mental health provider shortage actually a 'contrived payer crisis', exec says

Provider shortages in healthcare have been widely reported, and the problem appears particularly acute in behavioral health — but private payers could be partially to blame, one expert says.

Liz Porter, owner, practice manager and director of technology for Telemental in Eugene, Ore., spoke with Becker's about headwinds in behavioral health that aren't being talked about.

Note: Responses have been edited lightly for clarity and brevity.

Liz Porter: Most providers I know in mental health are not as full in patient capacity as one hears in the news. The mental health crisis is a contrived payer crisis and not so much a provider crisis. Third-party payers like insurance companies make it very challenging to credential and connect providers with patients. 

In response, an entire cottage industry has sprung up in recent years to offer "casework" to match patients with mental health providers. I work with dozens of (very limited utility) referring agencies who claim they can span the gap in getting patients appropriately matched with a provider that meets both their care needs and their financial and insurance requirements. 

Many of these agencies are publicly funded to "address the mental health crisis" but their utility is limited as they do not pre-screen patients for even insurance checks. This shifts the costs of the "pre-approval" process to the practice, so these referring agencies essentially take from healthcare resources, but I fail to see what they offer.

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