WASHINGTON, D. C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today announced an agreement with three insurance companies – Aetna, CareFirst BlueChoice, and UnitedHealthcare – to ensure that consumers have access to accurate information about mental health providers. The Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) investigation of the insurers’ online and print directories of District psychiatrists revealed errors in doctors’ contact information and whether they were accepting new patients, making it difficult for consumers to access mental health services. In the agreement, the OAG requires the insurance companies to correct the provider directories, regularly audit that information, and pay the District $50,000 for investigation costs.
“Insurers’ flawed health directories make it harder for consumers seeking treatment to get critical mental health services,” said Attorney General Racine. “District residents should not have to struggle to find the psychiatric help they urgently need, especially as suicides are on the rise in our city and across the country.”
Aetna, CareFirst BlueChoice, and UnitedHealthcare are corporations operating in the District of Columbia that sell health insurance to District consumers. These providers publish online and print directories of psychiatrists in the District. Consumers use these provider directories to find doctors’ names, addresses, and phone numbers and whether or not they are accepting new patients.
This month, the Centers for Disease Control released a report showing that suicide rates between 1999 and 2016 have increased more than 30 percent in half of the states and by about 16 percent in the District. Over half of those who died by suicide had no diagnosed mental health conditions, demonstrating the importance of connecting consumers with effective and coordinated mental health services.
As part of the agreement with the OAG, the insurance providers will audit the accuracy of their entire directory of psychiatrists within 60 days of the agreement and complete annual audits for at least four years. The agreement also requires the addition of a function that allows users to report errors in the online directory. Once new contact information is validated or the window to validate expires, the providers have five business days to update their online directory and take steps to update the information in future print directories. Each provider must also pay the District $50,000 for costs incurred during the OAG investigation.
Copies of the agreements are at: Aetna, CareFirst BlueChoice, and UnitedHealthcare.
Consumers may contact the OAG’s Office of Consumer Protection with complaints at (202) 442-9892 or Consumer.Protection@dc.gov.