Health Care Spending For Mental Health Disorders Increases Between 2013 And 2020

Overall spending on mental health services increased from 6.8% to 8.2% between 2013 and 2020, according to a new study published by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).

“Approximately 1 in 5 adults and 1 in 6 youth experience mental illness each year, and these rates have been rising,” Paul Fronstin, director of EBRI’s Health Benefits Research and co-author of the study, says in a statement. “Over 20 million Americans have a substance use disorder. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated mental health issues nationally and in the workplace. With increases in both the number of individuals diagnosed with mental health disorders and use of health care services, higher spending is of great concern to plan sponsors of health benefit programs.”

Here are five key findings from EBRI’s research:

  1. 1. The percentage of the population under the age of 65 with employment-based health coverage diagnosed with a mental health disorder increased from 14.2% in 2013 to 18.5% in 2020.
  1. 2. Use of mental health care services increased between 2013 and 2020, and use of outpatient services increased the most. The percentage of enrollees using outpatient services increased from 12% to 16%, a 33% increase.
  1. 3. Among enrollees with a mental health diagnosis, average annual spending on mental health care services increased from $1,987 to $2,380 between 2013 and 2020 — an average of 3% per year.
  1. 4. Spending on outpatient mental health services increased 37%, while spending on prescription drugs for mental health disorders fell 15%.
  1. 5. Outpatient mental health care services accounted for two-thirds of total spending in 2020, up from just over one-half in 2013.

“Employers and workers spent nearly $77 billion on mental health disorders in 2020,” Fronstin adds. “Employers are looking for ways to address the mental health needs of workers given the current economic climate, and they are especially interested in addressing mental health needs because of the connection between depression and productivity losses. Taking responsibility for workers’ mental health may not only reduce spending on health care but may increase worker productivity.”


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