Accessing behavioral health providers through private insurance in Oklahoma

February 9, 2023

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.

Read a summary of our research and overview of our findings.

Key Takeaways

  • The majority of behavioral health providers listed by insurance networks appear unavailable or unreachable – many with disconnected phone lines.
  • Even when behavioral health providers are active in the network, many cannot see clients in a timely manner.
  • Network directories offer fewer behavioral health providers for rural Oklahomans and those with complex needs such as substance use treatment.
  • Insurance plans leave out the vast majority of available providers. In the best example, only 30% of behavioral health providers are in network.
Read the full report and reactions from Oklahoma lawmakers and business leaders.