January 5th, 2019

Where is the leadership in Mass. compensation debate?

health insurance psychologistPsychologists in Massachusetts are letting down their fellow citizens, as more and more clinical psychologists refuse to accept traditional health insurance for payment. In an in-depth article in the Oct. 21, 2018 issue of the Boston Globe, Liz Kowalczyk details the challenges citizens in Massachusetts face in getting psychological care through their insurance provider or through the government’s Medicaid program.

The typical finger-pointing ensues in the article, with insurance companies and Medicaid claiming they are paying market rates ($72 for a 45-minute session) while trying to cut back on burdensome paperwork costs.

Psychologists and other therapists claim it’s still not enough, and the on-going need for justifying new blocks of therapy sessions to insurers is time-consuming and often frustrating.

But why is the Massachusetts Psychological Association silent on the issue? They appear to take no position on the matter, instead remaining on the sidelines while this debate plays out.

Nobody should be forced to provide services at a cost that doesn’t make financial sense to their own lives. The benefits of seeing patients who pay direct, cash out-of-pocket are hard to argue against.

However, shouldn’t there be a balance between a psychologist’s career goals and the needs of our fellow citizens and the local community in which we live?

If insurers aren’t paying what you think you’re worth, why do we not ban together as a group and demand higher reimbursement rates? And by the way, isn’t this a time where a state professional association should be leading the charge?

I don’t have any easy answers to this complex problem. But I do hope our state’s psychologist leaders work together to find one where psychologists are justly compensated for their services.

We need a solution that allows them to provide those services through the most common way people seek out their health and mental health care — through their health insurance plans.

By John Grohol, Psy.D.

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