Payment strategies for behavioral health integration in hospital-affiliated and non-hospital-affiliated primary care practices

Transl Behav Med. 2022 Aug 17;12(8):878-883. doi: 10.1093/tbm/ibac053.


Recent value-based payment reforms in the U.S. called for empirical data on how primary care practices of varying characteristics fund their integrated behavioral health services. To describe payment strategies used by U.S. primary care practices to fund behavioral health integration and compare strategies between practices with and without hospital affiliation.Baseline data were used and collected from 44 practices participating in a cluster-randomized, pragmatic trial of behavioral health integration. Data included practice characteristics and payment strategies-fee-for-service payment, pay-for-performance incentives, grants, and graduate medical education funds. Descriptive and comparative analyses using Fisher's exact tests and independent T-tests were conducted. The sample had 26 (59.1%) hospital-affiliated (hospital/health system-owned, academic medical centers and hospital-affiliated practices) and 18 (40.9%) non-hospital-affiliated practices (community health centers/federally qualified health centers and privately-owned practices). Most practices (88.6%) received payments through fee-for-service; 63.6% received pay-for-performance incentives; 31.8% received grant funds. Collaborative Care Management billing (CPT) codes were used in six (13.6%) practices. Over half (53.8%) of hospital-affiliated practices funded their behavioral health services through fee-for-service and pay-for-performance incentives only, as opposed to two-thirds (66.7%) of non-hospital-affiliated practices required additional support from grants and/or general medical education funds. Primary care practices support behavioral health integration through diverse payment strategies. More hospital-affiliated practices compared to non-hospital-affiliated practices funded integrated behavioral health services through fee-for-service and pay-for-performance incentives. Practices without hospital affiliation relied on multiple funding streams including grants and/or general medical education funds, suggesting their approach to financial sustainment may be more precarious or challenging, compared to hospital-affiliated practices.

Trial registration: NCT02868983.

Keywords: Behavioral health; Integrated care; Payment models; Primary care; Value-based care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Community Health Centers
  • Fee-for-Service Plans*
  • Health Services
  • Humans
  • Primary Health Care
  • Reimbursement, Incentive*

Associated data