This Day On The Street
Continue to site right-arrow
This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here
Stocks Under $10 with 50-100% upside potential - 14 days FREE!

Talk Is Cheap: How Insurance Changed The Face Of Psychiatry

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics a psychiatrist's mean annual income in 2011 was $174,170, compared to a surgeon's at $184,650 and a dentist's at $241,100. Worse, the 2011 average psychologist's salary was $73,090.

Most shrinks used to treat 50 patients in once or twice weekly talk therapy sessions of 45 to 60 minutes. Now, they treat 1,000 patients in mostly 15-minute increments for prescription refills and tweaks to medication, explains Reiss Where once they delved into patient's psyches with the skill and finesse of a trained mind master, they now regularly pull out the prescription pad and mix antidepressant cocktails like a chemist.

"Training programs by and large don't really even teach psychotherapy anymore," says Reiss about up-and-coming psychiatrists.

Insurance company reimbursement rates and health plans that discourage talk therapy are mostly to blame. Although Reiss says psychiatrists are not blameless: Greed and co-dependence on the newer paradigm plays a role. A psychiatrist can earn $150 for three 15-minute medication visits compared with $90 for a 45-minute talk session. You do the math.

"Consequently, mental health professionals have arguably the worst reimbursements in health care, and many are leaving the field or working outside of the health care insurance system," says Ivan J. Miller, a Colorado-based psychologist and mental health reform advocate.

Worse, decades ago, psychiatrists saw patients three to four times before they came up with a carefully plotted diagnosis and treatment plan: depression, bipolar disorder or anxiety, for example. But insurers now won't reimburse treatment without a diagnosis, so today doctors make a difficult diagnosis within the first 45-minute appointment.

Crunching the numbers

As part of The Task Force on Managed Care and Healthcare Policy, Gordon Herz examined billing service information, Medicare reimbursement schedules, and Psychotherapy Finance surveys in order to track 20 years of psychotherapy reimbursement. He compared what insurance companies call "usual and customary rates (UCR)," with the "real usual and customary rates" that providers charge in communities. In most states, insurance companies have such wide latitude in determining their own UCR that the term merely means whatever the insurance company is willing to reimburse.

And it's not so rosy for therapists at the Masters level either -- marriage, family and child counselors and licensed clinical social workers fare even worse.

2 of 4

Select the service that is right for you!

Action Alerts PLUS
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
  • Weekly roundups
TheStreet Quant Ratings
Try it NOW
Only $49.95/yr

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
  • Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Stocks Under $10
Try it NOW

David Peltier, uncovers low dollar stocks with extraordinary upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
  • Weekly roundups
Dividend Stock Advisor
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
  • Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Real Money Pro
Try it NOW

All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.

Product Features:
  • Real Money + Doug Kass Plus 15 more Wall Street Pros
  • Intraday commentary & news
  • Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Options Profits
Try it NOW

Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • 100+ monthly options trading ideas
  • Actionable options commentary & news
  • Real-time trading community
  • Options TV
To begin commenting right away, you can log in below using your Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, OpenID or Yahoo login credentials. Alternatively, you can post a comment as a "guest" just by entering an email address. Your use of the commenting tool is subject to multiple terms of service/use and privacy policies - see here for more details.
Submit an article to us!


DOW 18,062.39 +8.68 0.05%
S&P 500 2,093.07 +4.30 0.21%
NASDAQ 4,809.58 +2.7210 0.06%

Brokerage Partners

Rates from

  • Mortgage
  • Credit Cards
  • Auto

Free Newsletters from TheStreet

My Subscriptions:

After the Bell

Before the Bell

Booyah! Newsletter

Midday Bell

TheStreet Top 10 Stories

Winners & Losers

Register for Newsletters
Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs