Majority of Psychiatrists Listed in DC Health Insurance Exchange Network Not Available For New Patient Appointments

ATLANTA – People seeking treatment from a psychiatrist through the three largest carriers in the Health Insurance Exchange Network in metro Washington, D.C. face a very difficult time—86 percent of network psychiatrists were either not reachable or not able to schedule a new visit, according to new study released today by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

In response to frequent complaints that patients are unable to find available psychiatrists in their network, APA worked with the APA Foundation to conduct a study of the three largest health insurance plans in the Washington, D.C. health insurance exchange to determine whether the psychiatrists listed in the network directories were really available to see patients. The study also intended to understand patients’ experience in seeking treatment from a psychiatrist.

The study found that

  • Only 14 percent of psychiatrists listed were available to schedule new outpatient appointments; 86 percent of the psychiatrists listed in the network directories were either unreachable or not actually taking new patients.
  • Nearly a quarter (23 percent) of the phone numbers listed were non-working phone numbers
  • Nearly half (49 percent) of the psychiatrists were no longer at the number listed
  • Callers often had to call several times to get a response
  • Only 7 percent of listed psychiatrists were able to schedule a new appointment within two weeks; 3 percent were able to schedule within 15-28 days; and 4 percent had wait times longer than four weeks
  • The average wait time for a new appointment was nearly three weeks (19.1 days)

View more about the approach and key findings.

“This study shows us that many people are not able to access needed care and people are paying for mental health care they cannot access,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “The Affordable Care Act is intended to expand access to mental health and substance use disorder care, yet networks are shrinking both because psychiatrists are dropping out of the networks citing unreasonable administrative burden and low payment rates as reasons and because plans are ‘narrowing their networks’ while providing robust directories of providers to attract purchasers to the plan.”

The American Psychiatric Association is a national medical specialty society whose 36,500 physician members specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses, including substance use disorders.

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