'If you've decided to investigate treatment options for your mental health, your health insurer will cheerfully refer you to a list of hundreds of providers -- but as STAT's Jack Turban discovered, this "network" of providers is actually a "ghost network," filled with wrong numbers that ring in McDonald's restaurants and jewelers. If you happen to reach an actual mental health professional, they'll probably tell you they're not accepting new patients.
An NIH study tried calling 360 in-network Blue Cross Blue Shield providers in Houston, Chicago, and Boston, with a 74% failure rate -- that is, only 26% of those numbers rang in the office of a provider who would make an appointment. For pediatric psychiatrists, the failure rate rises to 83%.
Maybe that's just a coincidence...but maybe not. A federal judge found that Unitedhealth was systematically, illegally gaming the system to deny mental health care to its insured customers in order to improve the company's profitability.
It's not hard to find a shrink who'll see you -- for $250/hour. But the for-profit health-care industry is signally uninterested in helping Americans take care of their mental health, and since people struggling with mental health issues are often easily discouraged (this is literally a symptom of depression), these hurdles are likely to be terrific money-spinners for the companies and their shareholders.
As Turban writes, "Imagine realizing (or acknowledging) that you have depression — a defining feature of which is loss of motivation — and start looking for a psychiatrist. After calling a McDonald’s, a jewelry store, and providers who say they don’t take your insurance but will be happy to see you for $250 per hour that you must pay out of pocket, you’ll likely be inclined to give up."'
Read more: The "ghost networks" of mental health professionals that US health insurers rely on to deny care to their patients
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