Importance: There have been recent calls for increased access to mental health services, but access may be limited owing to psychiatrist refusal to accept insurance.
Objective: To describe recent trends in acceptance of insurance by psychiatrists compared with physicians in other specialties.
Design, setting, and participants: We used data from a national survey of office-based physicians in the United States to calculate rates of acceptance of private noncapitated insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid by psychiatrists vs physicians in other specialties and to compare characteristics of psychiatrists who accepted insurance and those who did not.
Main outcomes and measures: Our main outcome variables were physician acceptance of new patients with private noncapitated insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid. Our main independent variables were physician specialty and year groupings (2005-2006, 2007-2008, and 2009-2010).
Results: The percentage of psychiatrists who accepted private noncapitated insurance in 2009-2010 was significantly lower than the percentage of physicians in other specialties (55.3% [95% CI, 46.7%-63.8%] vs 88.7% [86.4%-90.7%]; P < .001) and had declined by 17.0% since 2005-2006. Similarly, the percentage of psychiatrists who accepted Medicare in 2009-2010 was significantly lower than that for other physicians (54.8% [95% CI, 46.6%-62.7%] vs 86.1% [84.4%-87.7%]; P < .001) and had declined by 19.5% since 2005-2006. Psychiatrists' Medicaid acceptance rates in 2009-2010 were also lower than those for other physicians (43.1% [95% CI, 34.9%-51.7%] vs 73.0% [70.3%-75.5%]; P < .001) but had not declined significantly from 2005-2006. Psychiatrists in the Midwest were more likely to accept private noncapitated insurance (85.1%) than those in the Northeast (48.5%), South (43.0%), or West (57.8%) (P = .02).
Conclusions and relevance: Acceptance rates for all types of insurance were significantly lower for psychiatrists than for physicians in other specialties. These low rates of acceptance may pose a barrier to access to mental health services.