Finding a mental health provider, especially if you have an individual and family health insurance plan, can be a very daunting task. Every health insurance company or health plan has a different online provider directory database. Some of the online directories place mental health providers within the scope of other professionals such primary care physicians or specialists. Other health plans don’t even offer an option to search for a mental health provider. Even when you do finally navigate to the correct online search page, no providers may be listed. It’s enough to drive you crazy!
Searching For A Mental Health Professional
The search for any type of medical provider can be difficult. Usually health insurance companies have multiple networks and types to choose from such as individual and family, small group, large group, Medicare, HMO, PPO, EPO, etc. To add more confusion to the initial filtering, some of health plans give the networks vague marketing names such as Pathway, Exclusive, or Preferred. If you are already a member of a health plan, much of the confusion can be eliminated by creating an online account with the insurance company. Then when you do search through your account, the system will have already filtered out networks and providers who are not available.
But if you don’t have an account, are trying to help a family member or friend, or are just checking to see if you current mental health provider might be covered in a new health plan, you will have to swim in the sea of confusion for finding the doctor or counselor. Some of the health plans have great online directories and others really suck. Here is an overview of what I learned. Implicit in my review is that you have already been able to navigate to the find a provider tool on the health plan’s website and have set the filtering options to search only for providers in the chosen health plans network. For example, Anthem Blue Cross offers EPO, HMO, and PPO plans. You have to select the correct plan type in order to get the correct provider search results.
Health plans change their provider search engines and links on a regular basis. The illustrations below may not accurately reflect the current webpage displays.
Anthem Blue Cross
The most daunting aspect of searching on the Anthem Blue Cross website is sifting through the various health plan options to make sure you are searching the correct network of providers. Anthem has included a note on their Find a Doctor page under “What type of care are you searching for?”, which reads, “Providers for Behavioral Health & Substance Use Disorder Services are listed under Medical Care.” So when you finally get to the actual search page, use can use the drop down menu under specialist to find several categories of mental health professionals.
Blue Shield of California
Like most health plans, Blue Shield contracts with a third party medical group for mental health services. Once you have selected the right plan to search under, you need to select Mental Health, denoted by the stupid illustration of a brain. That will open a new page instructing you to visit the MHSA (Mental Health Services Administrators) Network. This page is branded Blue Shield. You can then start a search for a mental health professional within the MHSA network.
Chinese Community Health Plan
The CCHP search tool is pretty easy. On the home page, buried in the middle of the marketing text, you’ll need to click on CCHP Provider Directory. That will take you to the online search tool. I just entered Mental Health in the search field and received several doctors in the search page. There are not any advanced filtering features with the CCHP search, but they have a relatively small region where they actually offer health insurance.
With Health Net the most cumbersome task is just getting to the provider search after, hopefully, selecting the correct plan to search in. Once you get to the page that shows the different provider types, select Doctors. Then you’ll need to select Specialty from the doctor filter, which will provide a drop down list of various specialist including mental health professions.
The Kaiser provider search is straight forward. Just enter Mental Health and it will bring up a page of providers in that category. You can then further refine the search under the Medical Specialty drop down menu for Behavioral Health, Psychiatrists, or Psychologists.
L.A. Care Covered
L.A. Care individual and family plans farms out their mental health services to Beacon Health Options. Selecting the Behavioral Health Provider link will take you to the Beacon provider page. Then you have to select the Locate A Provider link. Under Service Type there are a variety of mental health specialties to select from. You can further refine the search under the Specialty drop down menu. Most important is selecting a Plan Type that is LACCD for L.A. Care Covered Direct for the individual and family plans.
However, no matter what zip code or city I put into the search, I received no results. The system said the zip code was wrong or no providers for any of the cities listed in Los Angeles County. I’m not sure if I was doing something incorrect, the Beacon website is broken, or there really are no mental health professionals within the L.A. Care Covered network.
The Molina provider search tool was pretty good. It can still a little intimidating to work through all the different screens to filter out plans and coverage types. A search under the Behavioral Health and Substance Abuse provider type, combined with a Specialty always yielded a variety of mental health providers. Just remember that Molina, like any HMO plan, requires a referral to any specialist from your Primary Care Physician.
Oscar has a very simple provider search tool. While you are shown numerous mental health providers, there are no advance features to drill down for provider who might be specialists in ADHD or other issues. You are left to call the doctor or mental health professional to learn more about the practice.
The frustrating part of the Sharp Health Plan provider search is remembering which of the networks is the correct one. They have Network 1 (Premier), Network 2 (Performance), and three other selections of Choice, Sharp Advantage, and Value. It’s all rather confusing if you don’t know which network your health plan is associated with. Make sure you select the Specialist under “I would like to see…” field. Click on search and then you can refine the search from the Specialty drop down menu on the right hand side.
Sutter Health Plus
Sutter health plans uses US Behavioral Health, California as their network of mental health professionals. Clicking on the Behavioral Health link on the Find a Provider tab will bring you to a new page. Clicking on Finding a Provider link will take you to a page branded liveandworkwell. You can then search by zip code to find the nearest professional and then refine the search with advanced features.
Valley Health Plan
VHP is on in Santa Clara County and has limited plan options. Consequently, their provider search tool is pretty easy to use and get decent results.
Western Health Advantage
WHA doesn’t consider mental health professionals worthy of being included in their provider search. Searching under Specialists->Mental Health will bring up zero results. If you look to the right hand side bar you’ll see a link titled, “Provider Directory Introduction”. Reading through this document I found the following
Behavioral Health Services Behavioral health services, such as mental health and alcohol and drug abuse benefits, are administered through Human Affairs International of California (HAI-CA), an affiliate of Magellan Behavioral Health. If you need behavioral health treatment or have questions about your behavioral health benefits, please call HAI-CA at 800.424.1778.
Note to University of California hospital and campus members: Your behavioral health services, including chemical dependency services, are not covered by WHA. They are covered through Optum, the supplemental coverage provided by your employer. Call Optum at 888.440.8225.
Essentially, WHA won’t let you do an online search for a local mental health professional in their service area. You have to call another bureaucracy to try and use the benefits of your health plan.