Emory University | Woodruff Health Sciences Center
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Increased coverage but modest treatment gains for depression

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While insurance coverage for depression has increased, treatment rates have grown more modestly, according to a study led by Dr. Jason Hockenberry, associate professor of health policy and management. The findings indicate that non-financial barriers to patient care still remain.

The researchers analyzed health services and spending data from the 1997, 2007, and 2015 Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys, which included the responses of 86,216 individuals. During the examined survey years, a number of new treatments and medications became available, and policies targeted toward mental health (such as the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act) increased coverage of mental health services. Findings from the researchers’ analysis show an absolute increase in the prevalence of treated depression and an increase in the proportion covered by insurance (Medicaid in particular). Despite this, overall spending on depression-related care has experienced a gradual increase (approximately 2 percent a year) from 1998 to 2015, and the rate of treatment for depression remains lower than the reported rate of incidence.

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