Because mental health is one of the ACA’s required benefits, many therapists are now having to deal with insurance contracts for the first time. (Getty Images)
By Sarah Varney, Kaiser Health News
In the corporate world of American health care, with its consolidating hospital chains and doctors’ groups, psychologists and other mental health therapists are still mostly Mom-and-Pop shops; they’ve built solo practices, hanging their own shingles, not unlike Lucy in the Peanuts gang: “Psychiatric Help 5¢, The Doctor Is In.”
But that business model is shifting from solo practices toward large medical groups, say mental health experts. The shift is propelled by the Affordable Care Act, which mandates mental health benefits in insurance coverage, and the 2008 mental health parity law, which requires private and public insurers to cover mental health needs just as they do medical conditions by charging similar co-pays, for example.
“It’s a big change for us. There is a loss of autonomy that a lot of therapists are frightened about.”
“It’s a big change for us,” said Barbara Griswold, a marriage and family therapist in San Jose. “I spent all of my life setting up this practice where I choose my clients, I choose my hours.”
In just the last few months, Griswold has weighed a new contract with a giant health insurer, warned other therapists to watch what they’re signing in payment negotiations and considered the extinction of her own solo practice. “The idea of me moving into an interdisciplinary practice where somebody else is taking care of my billing, and someone is choosing my clients for me —there is a loss of autonomy that a lot of therapists are frightened about,” Griswold said. Continue reading