Use of Psychiatrists, Psychologists, and Master's-Level Therapists in Managed Behavioral Health Care Carve-Out Plans

by Roland Sturm, Ruth Klap

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The authors examine outpatient claims data from a managed behavioral health company for 1996 to determine the extent to which patients received services from different types of mental health care providers. Claims data for 1996 were obtained from 75 plans with more than 600,000 members that were managed by one behavioral health care organization. Data were examined by type of provider and diagnosis. A total of 349,686 claims were examined. Doctoral-level psychologists accounted for most claims (33 percent), followed by psychiatrists (31 percent), social workers (20 percent), and other master's-level therapists (14 percent). Ninety-five percent of patients with a psychotic disorder and 86 percent of individuals with bipolar disorder were seen either by a psychiatrist alone or by a psychiatrist in combination with another provider. Among depressed patients, 63 percent were seen by a psychiatrist, alone or in combination with another provider. Only 23 percent of patients with an adjustment disorder and 14 percent of those with a V-code diagnosis were treated by a psychiatrist, alone or in combination with another provider. Because psychiatrists treated sicker patients, their proportion of patients treated (25 percent) was smaller than their proportion of all claims filed. Most patients (79 percent) saw only one type of provider. These results allay concerns that managed care shifts patients away from psychiatrists to doctoral-level psychologists and less-expensive providers. The majority of patients with depressive disorders and almost all patients with psychotic disorders had contact with a psychiatrist.

Reprinted with permission from Psychiatric Services, Vol. 50, No. 4, April 1999, pp. 504-508. Copyright © 1999 American Psychiatric Association.

Originally published in: Psychiatric Services, Vol. 50, No. 4, April 1999, pp. 504-508.

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