Insurance acceptance rates are lower for psychiatrists than for other types of physicians, according to a study by Tara F. Bishop, M.D., M.P.H., of Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY, and colleagues.

There have been recent calls for increased access to mental health services, but low insurance acceptance poses a barrier to these services, according to the study background.

Researchers used data from a national survey of office-based physicians in the U.S. to calculate rates of acceptance of private non-capitated (no set dollar amount) insurance, Medicare and Medicaid by psychiatrists vs. physicians in other specialties. The study also compared characteristics of psychiatrists who accepted insurance and those who did not.

According to the study's results, the percentage of psychiatrists who accepted private non-capitated insurance, Medicare and Medicaid in 2009-2010 was lower than the percentage of physicians in other specialties (55.3 percent vs. 88.7 percent for private insurance; 54.8 percent vs. 86.1 percent for Medicare; and 43.1 percent vs. 73 percent for Medicaid).

"Nonetheless, our findings suggest that policies to improve access to timely psychiatric care may be limited because many psychiatrists do not accept insurance," the authors conclude. "If, in fact, future work shows that psychiatrists do not take insurance because of low reimbursement, unbalanced supply and demand, and/or administrative hurdles, policy makers, payers and the medical community should explore ways to overcome these obstacles."