Health News – A new study examines the gap in access to mental healthcare services between urban and rural areas in the US. The researchers reveal a huge difference in expenditure and the quality of service provided between the two areas.
A study recently revealed the rural-urban disparities existing in access to mental health services. The study was conducted at University of Georgia College of Public Health.
The study examined over 10 years of insurance claims in the US, from 2005 to 2018. It studied how adults, aged 18–64 years, used employer-sponsored private insurance to pay for mental health care services in urban and rural areas. It estimated the rural-urban differences in outpatient service utilization and expenditures for depression, anxiety disorder, and substance use-disorders.
The findings, published in The Journal of Rural Health, show a huge rural-urban gap in access to mental health services among a population with private insurance. Urban enrollees of insurance are linked to higher rates of depression and anxiety disorders. They also avail greater use of outpatient mental health services, but with a lower share of out-of-pocket expenses.
In contrast, rural communities are more linked to substance abuse. Rural enrollees of insurance show lower use of outpatient mental health services and more reliance on primary healthcare. They also shoulder a greater share of out-of-pocket expenses for healthcare services.
However, even though the usage gap has narrowed in recent years—the quality and cost of care aren’t equitable in urban and rural areas.
From the information gathered, the researchers inferred that such usage gaps depend on expenditure, geography, provider shortages, and insurance network. For instance, the lack of medical professionals in rural areas influences expenditure and access to healthcare services. This is true even for the wealthy rural inhabitants with private insurance. The lead author, Zhuo A. Chen, said, “Rural enrollees have a higher share of copays [as] they are relying on primary care physicians and nurses much more than the urban area enrollees”.
The researchers also offer two-policy recommendations to strengthen the connection between patients and mental health services. Firstly, this includes expanding online counseling and telemedicine in both urban and rural areas. Secondly, incentives should be provided to mental health providers to practice in rural areas.
To Know More You May Refer To
Chen, Z., Roy, K., Khushalani, J. S., & Puddy, R. W. (2022). Trend in rural-urban disparities in access to outpatient mental health services among US adults aged 18-64 with employer-sponsored insurance: 2005-2018. The Journal of rural health : official journal of the American Rural Health Association and the National Rural Health Care Association, 10.1111/jrh.12644. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1111/jrh.12644