15 recent payer investments in mental, behavioral healthcare

From network expansions to major acquisitions, there have been many significant payer investments in mental and behavioral healthcare in 2022.

The investments come on the heels of the Biden administration calling for better enforcement of mental healthcare parity rules and AHIP urging health plans to prioritize the expansion of affordable mental healthcare this year. 

The investments appear to be making an impact. On May 10, AHIP released a poll revealing that nearly 90 percent of Americans with employer-sponsored health insurance are satisfied with the mental healthcare they've received since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mental healthcare

BCBS Massachusetts expands mental healthcare provider network

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts expanded its mental health provider network May 4 to include specialists who focus on obsessive-compulsive disorder, serious mental illness, trauma and substance use disorders.

California extends Medi-Cal to noncitizens over age 50

California opened Medi-Cal to noncitizens over the age of 50 starting May 1. The move will provide access to primary care, prescription drugs, mental healthcare, dental and vision care. 

MassHealth to send hospitals funding for psychiatric services

MassHealth, Massachusetts' Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program, is sending supplemental payments to hospitals to support psychiatric services in emergency departments from May 1 to Oct. 31.

Optum reportedly buys Refresh Mental Health

UnitedHealth Group's Optum unit bought Refresh Mental Health from a private equity firm, Axios reported March 24. Jacksonville Beach, Fla.-based Refresh Mental Health runs a network of more than 300 outpatient sites across 37 states and has more than 1,500 employees.

Florida Blue launches in-home primary care

Florida Blue Medicare, the state's Blue Cross and Blue Shield Medicare plan, has partnered with Franklin, Tenn.-based Emcara Health to offer house calls from primary care providers to members throughout Florida. In-home primary care services offered by the Jacksonville, Fla.-based plan will include access to in-home services from physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, community health workers and mental health professionals. 

Grow Therapy, Aetna partner to offer mental healthcare to 87 million enrollees

Aetna partnered with New York City-based Grow Therapy March 17 to provide in-network mental healthcare benefits to all 87 million Aetna beneficiaries. The move allows Aetna enrollees to access Grow Therapy's thousands of therapy and psychiatry providers regardless of location.

UnitedHealth grants HealthNet $2M to reduce healthcare disparities in Indiana

The United Health Foundation awarded a $2 million, three-year grant to Indianapolis-based nonprofit HealthNet on March 15 to expand primary and behavioral healthcare access in rural and urban Indiana. The program includes primary care, preventive services and mental health screenings.

Evernorth expands Meru Health partnership, offers mental health platform to members nationwide

Cigna's Evernorth added mental healthcare provider Meru Health to its national network Jan. 31, building on a limited relationship established in 2020. The expanded network offering applies to members on employer or individual and family plans.

Blue Shield of California adds Ginger to behavioral health program

Blue Shield of California said January 20 it would offer members enrolled in Wellvolution, its behavioral health program, access to personalized mental healthcare from Ginger. Ginger, a part of Headspace Health, provides members with on-demand mental health coaching and activities through their smartphone, as well as video therapy and psychiatry sessions. The payer added Headspace to its Wellvolution program in October, and has expanded the partnership to include its full suite of mental and behavioral health services. 

UnitedHealth Group strikes in-network deal with D'Amore Healthcare

Huntington Beach, Calif.-based behavioral healthcare provider D'Amore Healthcare is joining UnitedHealth Group's provider network, effective Jan. 15. D'Amore offers group and individual therapy sessions and evaluations for patients with depression, mood disorders, schizophrenia and other mental health issues.

Behavioral healthcare

Centene partners with Behavioral Health Center of Excellence to improve autism treatment 

Centene announced May 10 it is partnering with Behavioral Health Center of Excellence to improve quality in autism treatment outcomes. The payer and the data-driven healthcare accreditor's research collaboration will help better assess treatment outcomes and quality of care through formalized measurement of applied behavior analysis services. These measures  will allow benchmarking of national healthcare quality standards for behavioral health that aim to improve quality and efficiency.

3 payers partner with Bicycle Health 

Three payers have partnered with Boston-based Bicycle Health to offer opioid use treatments under Medicaid managed care plans. McLaren Health Plan, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas are offering virtual drug treatment to 8 million members, according to the March 28 announcement. All Bicycle Health services are provided through the company's mobile application. Services provided through Medicaid and Blue Cross Blue Shield include individual and group psychotherapy from behavioral health clinicians. 

BCBS of Michigan, Trinity Health integrate behavioral health

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is collaborating with Livonia, Mich.-based Trinity Health on integrating behavioral health into patients' primary care — a relationship that's closely aligning the organizations and providing holistic care to patients, according to a Feb. 2 American Medical Association report. The report highlighted how both payers and providers have visions of how behavioral health integration programs should be structured, but partnerships are often the ticket to cost savings and better patient outcomes. 

Highmark adds alcohol use disorder recovery platform

Highmark announced Jan. 24 it added alcohol use disorder recovery platform Tempest to its member offerings. The platform uses therapy, psychology, mindfulness and on-call professionals to drive member alcohol recovery. Tempest has historically reduced typical drinks consumed a day by 66 percent and led to a 25 percent reduction in anxiety and depression.

Centene completes Magellan acquisition

Cetene completed its acquisition of Phoenix-based behavioral health provider Magellan Health Jan. 4. The move makes Centene one of the largest behavioral health providers in the country, serving 41 million members. It also expands the payer's government plan and pharmacy membership. Under the deal, Magellan operates independently under Centene's healthcare enterprises arm.

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