N.J. residents have tough time finding psychiatrists who accept their insurance plans

Getting an appointment with a psychiatrist in New Jersey is tough. It’s something mental health advocates have been hearing about for some time, but a new survey puts actual numbers on the challenges people experience when trying to reach out for help.



Calls to a help line staffed by the Mental Health Association of New Jersey kept raising the same problem over and over

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“I can’t get a psychiatrist, who will accept my insurance,” said Carolyn Beauchamp who heads the association. She said her organization decided to do some research. There are more than 1,500 psychiatrists in the Garden State, and they picked a sample of more than 500 listed as in-network on PPO or “preferred provider organization” insurance plans.

One third were wrong names. Of the 300 or so left in the sample, only half were accepting new patients. “And when asked how long it would take for an appointment, a quarter of them answered more than two months. A quarter answered one to two months,” said Beauchamp.

That’s too long to wait, said Beauchamp, because people who want to meet with a psychiatrist are typically very ill and need help.

Psychiatrists in New Jersey say low reimbursement rates have made it hard for them to accept insurance.

While there is no quick fix for this problem, Beauchamp said her organization is trying to educate consumers on when they really need to see a psychiatrist — and when they could see other providers such as psychologists instead.

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