48% Of Telehealth Claims Were for Behavioral Health in 2020

Behavioral health conditions in 2020 accounted for almost half of all telehealth visits in the U.S. as the country began its sojourn through the coronavirus pandemic.

At that time, the behavioral health industry appeared to shift even further toward telehealth adoption and utilization even though behavioral health made up the largest share of all telehealth claims in 2019, according to a new report by the New York City-based health insurance and cost data nonprofit Fair Health.

Since then, the high use of telehealth has become an enduring element within the behavioral health and contrasts with other segments of the health care sector.


Mental health, developmental disorders and substance use disorders collectively accounted for 48% of all telehealth claims, the Fair Health report states.

Mental health conditions specifically made up 44% of all claims. In 2019, 35% of telehealth visits were for mental health conditions.

Developmental disorders and substance use disorders made up 3% and 1% of claims in 202, respectively, the report states.


Across all specialties, telehealth utilization in 2020 increased 7,060% compared to 2019, driven by responses to COVID-19 and resultant government regulations.

A look at Fair Health’s telehealth rates pre-pandemic accentuates how quickly COVID-19 accelerated telehealth. Utilization increased by about 42,000% in 2020 compared to 2015. Compare that to the 1,019% increase from 2014 to 2019, the paper states.

“Among the places of service studied, telehealth held the highest percentage of medical claim lines in 2020, with 15.41% of all medical claim lines nationally,” the report states. “The comparable percentages for the other places of service were 2.07% for ERs, 1.31% for urgent care centers, 0.64$ for ASCs and 0.05% for retail clinics.”

Other more recent Fair Health data show that the high rate of mental health telehealth has endured while other services are increasingly performed in person.

Telehealth claims as a share of all claims have decreased to 5.4% in January, the latest Fair Health data available. The share of mental health claims within telehealth claims increased to 58.9%. Three psychotherapy-related reimbursement codes made up the top five most reimbursed codes and made up 37.9% of all claims.

Since January 2021, the share of telehealth visits for mental health issues has not fallen below 51%.

Fair Health’s database encompasses 36 billion private and public health plan claim records and is which is growing by over 2 billion claims a year. The organization claims to hold the largest collection of private health care claims data in the U.S., according to the report.

Other sources of data confirm the high prevalence of mental health and behavioral health within telehealth data.

An analysis by Trilliant Health, a Brentwood, Tennessee-based predictive analytics company focused on health care, found that in 2021 57.9% of telehealth visits were attributed to behavioral health diagnoses. It further found that telehealth was a meaningful substitute for in-person care in the behavioral health space.

The national health insurer UnitedHealthcare, part of the Minnetonka, Minnesota-based health care behemoth UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE: UNH), saw that about 66% of all behavioral health claims in 2021 were for virtual care. Compare that to 1.5% of behavioral claims being for virtual care in 2019.

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