Biden’s mental health strategy fits insurers’ whole person wheelhouse

President Joe Bidens proposal Investing more in mental health should complement health insurers’ efforts to integrate behavioral therapy into medical treatment.

Biden’s proposal includes money to encourage more Americans to enter behavioral health professions and to alleviate the shortage of such providers through loans and grants. And more broadly, it focuses policymakers, Congress, and the healthcare industry on ways to improve mental health care and make it a priority.

“Let’s tackle mental health,” Biden said during his State of the Union address Tuesday night. “And let’s give all Americans the mental health services they need. More people to turn to for help and full equity between physical and mental health care.”

Biden’s mental health strategy was released on Tuesday was designed to “bolster system capacity, connect more Americans to care, and create a continuum of support — as we transform our health and social services infrastructure to address mental health holistically and equitably.”

Health insurance companies are increasingly working to combine their medical services with mental health offerings. Exactly how much of Biden’s plan will result in legislation becoming law remains to be seen, but the strategy fits in with some major efforts already underway by health insurance companies and major healthcare providers.

As an example, Andrew Witty, chief executive officer of UnitedHealth Group, said that UnitedHealth’s health insurance business and Optum’s medical supply companies are increasingly working together to address the mental health issues of health plan members.

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“How can we bring behavioral science and medicine together,” Witty said in December during the 10th annual Forbes Healthcare Summit. “It’s a somewhat odd phenomenon that the system treats the brain as if it’s not connected to the body in terms of how we govern for it. How do we think about connecting the virtual with the physical?”

Health insurers such as Anthem, Cigna and Humana, as well as CVS Health and its health insurance unit Aetna, are increasingly at the forefront of efforts to integrate medical delivery services and behavioral health offerings. For example. more CVS Health Pharmacies and MinuteClinics offer psychological counseling centers.

The health insurance lobby issued a statement Tuesday night praising Biden’s “call to action to improve access to quality behavioral health care for all Americans, especially underrepresented and underserved communities.”

“We need more innovative collaborations and solutions with providers and communities to address this complex issue, including more programs to encourage more behavioral health providers and to integrate behavioral and physical health care into the physician practice,” said Matt Eyles, President and Chief Executive Officer of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP). “We strongly support equity in meeting physical and behavioral health needs, expanded access to telehealth services, and the promotion of value-based care arrangements that include behavioral health providers and services. We will continue to engage with Congress and the administration on additional solutions Americans need now to improve behavioral health care for children, adolescents and adults.”

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