More than half of Oklahomans – over 2 million people – have commercial health insurance in an employer-sponsored, non-group, or Medicare Advantage plan, dwarfing the number of Oklahomans who rely on Medicaid. At this time of unprecedented need for mental health care, most Oklahomans rely on services through their commercial health plans. Unfortunately, health plan members report waiting weeks or months to see a behavioral health provider or paying substantially higher costs to see an out-of-network provider. Considering that nearly 50% of Oklahomans experience a mental illness or addiction during their lifetimes, the public health implications of delayed and expensive care for so many Oklahomans with private insurance are vast.
Using network directories, licensure data, a survey of licensed providers, and verification calls to providers listed in network directories, Healthy Minds tested the accessibility of the largest commercial health insurance networks in Oklahoma. We found that health insurance networks offer poor access to the state’s behavioral health care providers — a barrier to care for more than 2 million Oklahomans with these plans. With implications for health outcomes across the state, the problem will require action by insurers, policymakers, providers, and employers.