Investment in Behavioral Health Could Save $185B Annually

Better behavioral health care for Americans would not only produce better results for patients, but generate billions in savings annually, according to a recently released economic report from the global consulting firm McKinsey & Company.

The report identified actions that public, private and social stakeholders could take to produce substantial savings in annual health care costs. Those actions include the expansion of evidenced-based behavioral health options — like telehealth — to remote, underserved communities, as well as investing in behavioral health care at parity with other health conditions — i.e. reimbursing behavioral health services at higher rates.

The report builds upon another one that McKinsey published last year, in which the company discussed ways to build a “holistic approach to healthcare.” In that report, authors listed strategies to help, such as strengthening preventive behavioral care at the community level, integrating behavioral and physical health, leveraging data and statistics and addressing unmet behavioral health needs.

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By taking into account McKinsey’s recommendations, the US could reduce its total health care spending by about $185 billion a year, the firm said.

The report also asserts that the savings would trickle down to help providers recruit more workers to fill behavioral health positions. Presently, behavioral health care providers struggle trying to fill jobs to keep up with the increasing demand for services. Lower reimbursement rates make it hard for behavioral health providers to pay competitive wages.

“All stakeholders—including public, private, and social sectors—can play a role in addressing these disparities,” the report’s authors noted. “Establishing the groundwork for whole person care will require addressing supply-demand inequities in behavioral health services, expanding equitable access to evidence-based models of care, and investing in behavioral health at parity with other health conditions.”

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