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One year after investing in mental health startup Quartet Health, insurer Centene announced plans to expand a partnership with the company across 32 states.
New York-based Quartet offers in-person and telehealth appointments with local therapists and psychiatrists. The company also designed a tech platform to make it easier for primary care physicians to make referrals and collaborate with mental health providers on treatment plans.
“During this difficult time of a worldwide pandemic, we are seeing a dramatic rise in behavioral health needs for our members,” Centene CEO Michael Neidorff said in a news release. “Centene is pleased to partner with Quartet to leverage its national network of locally-based behavioral health providers, allowing our members to quickly be matched to the care they need in a setting that is comfortable for them.”
Last year, Centene led a $60 million funding round in Quartet Health. Shortly after, the startup struck partnerships with Medicaid health plans IlliniCare Health and Louisiana Healthcare Connections, both of which are Centene subsidiaries.
In Illinois and Louisiana, the partnerships helped reduce the time it took for members to get a behavioral health appointment by 41%, Centene Chief Behavioral Health Officer Brett Hart said in a news release.
Since then, Centene has acquired insurer WellCare, making it the largest Medicaid managed care organization in the U.S.
Through the expanded partnership, Quartet will integrate its platform will integrate with Centene’s population health software, making it easier for care managers to refer members to Quartet for behavioral health care.
“Covid-19 has highlighted and exacerbated our mental health care crisis,” Quartet CEO Dr. David Wennberg said in a news release. “Our partnership will help ensure that Centene’s millions of members will get the behavioral health care they need through a network of mental health providers that have virtual care capabilities, and are local to their area.”
In the past few months, several health plans have built out partnerships with startups to try to address the growing need for mental health services. Prior to the pandemic, the shortage in behavioral health providers had been well documented, with the National Center for Health Workforce Analysis projecting a shortage of psychiatrists in 37 to 40 states by 2030. Similar shortages were predicted for mental health counselors.
Introducing Covid-19 into the picture has only exacerbated the situation, with many health systems reporting increased demand for behavioral health services. In April, three times as many adults reported psychological distress as they did two years earlier, according to a research letter published in JAMA last month.
UnitedHealth Group subsidiary Optum reportedly was in recent talks to acquire behavioral telehealth startup AbleTo for $470 million. Though the companies have not yet confirmed the deal, in an earnings call, OptumHealth CEO Wyatt Decker said they were “…very pleased about the partnership and we look forward to continuing to build out both their and our capabilities.”
Earlier this year, Livongo acquired behavioral health startup MyStrength. The company does not offer telehealth appointments, but instead connects users with wellness tools and helps them track their mental health.
Shortly after the pandemic started, Kaiser Permanente announced a partnership with Livongo to offer MyStrength to its patients.