Proposed Insurance Mergers Could Limit Access to MH Care Even More

The proposed mergers of four giant health insurance companies—Anthem-Cigna and Aetna-Humana—will eliminate consumer choice and encourage insurers to raise prices; they are also likely to have an especially dire effect on access to psychiatric care.

That’s what APA President Renée Binder, M.D., and CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A., told U.S. Assistant Attorney General William J. Baer, in a letter today expressing APA’s grave concerns about the proposed mergers.

“APA agrees with the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, and the American Academy of Family Physicians and shares their concern that these proposed consolidations will functionally leave the vast majority of health care administration in the United States to three major insurers, thereby eliminating consumer choice and encouraging insurers to raise prices and reduce quality of care in most markets,” they wrote. “Furthermore, individuals with mental illness, including substance use disorders, are uniquely affected by the impact these mergers will have on access to psychiatric care in insurance plan provider networks. We request that the Department of Justice [DOJ] focus attention in its review of the proposed mergers on each company’s history of restricting access to clinically appropriate psychiatric care, as well as their ability to more severely restrict access to care if such acquisitions are permitted.”

In addition, Binder and Levin noted that seven years after passage of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, insurance companies have continued to use a variety of strategies to restrict access to psychiatric care and that the proposed mergers would likely make it easier for them to do so.