RealClearHealth: Psychiatric Care for Youths Often Delayed by Insurance Rules
By Karen Pallarito | RealClearHealth
March 28, 2016
(HealthDay News) — Children with severe psychiatric problems often have lengthy waits before they’re transferred from a hospital emergency department to a psychiatric hospital due to insurance companies’ “prior authorization” requirements, a small study suggests.
Mental health workers at one Rhode Island hospital spent an average of an hour on the telephone seeking insurance companies’ approval, the study authors reported. In one case, the researchers said approval took up to 4.5 hours.
“The majority of these kids are suicidal; a minority of them are homicidal. That’s as dangerous as having a burst appendix,” said study senior author Dr. J. Wesley Boyd, a psychiatrist at Cambridge Health Alliance in Cambridge, Mass.
All of the admissions were ultimately approved. This suggests that prior authorization appears to serve “more as an administrative hurdle,” the study authors wrote.
“This is rationing care by hassle factor,” said study lead author Dr. Amy Funkenstein, an assistant professor of medicine at Tufts University in Boston.
The study was scheduled to be published in a letter March 30 in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine.