Belgian health care centre proposes reimbursement for psychological care

The federal Health Care Knowledge Centre has published a study on possible reimbursement of expenses for psychological care. The centre proposes support in two stages. In the first stage psychological care would be general and widely accessible while the second stage would be intended for specialized care.

The Belgian Health Care Knowledge Centre (KCE) is a semi-governmental institution and independent of the federal government. Most of its activities are commissioned by the Ministry of Public Health and Social Affairs and the National Health and Invalidity Insurance.

The mission of the KCE is to advice policy makers about the possibilities to obtain an efficient allocation of scarce health care resources that optimizes the quality and accessibility of health care.

According to the proposal, the first stage of care, inspired by pilot projects in Flanders with “frontline psychologists”, will be open for all. No prescription, test or diagnosis of the gravity of the problem would be required.

The patient will be entitled to a maximum of five sessions with psychologists specially trained to give first support for the most common psychological problems.

“The aim would be to assess the problem and give a little bit of professional support that probably would be enough to regain more energy and resolve.”

KCE indicates that according to figures from the national health insurance institute (Inami) in 2013 “between a third and half of new disability benefit claims” were due to mental disorders. This is an increase of almost 60% in 10 years.

A majority of Belgians goes through difficult moments of life that lead to anxiety, stress, burn-out, etc. This type of cases, if no support is provided, can become permanent with time and difficult to treat.

The second level of treatment would occur when the five sessions are not enough and there is a need for more specific support or long term care. Here, a prescription is required. The number of reimbursed meetings would be limited.

In the study, KCE analyzed existing systems abroad and proposes an adaptation to the Belgian reality. The study was requested by the national insurance institue, the public health service and a professional association of psychologists.

Mental health care neglected world-wide

The Belgian study is published about the same time as the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO) are meeting in Washington this week to move mental health to the forefront of the international development agenda, according to a report in International New York Times (14 April).

On Tuesday the first global estimate of potential returns on investing in treatment of depression and anxiety, the most common mental disorders, was published.

According to the newspaper, a review of data from 36 countries, incl. in Europe, showed that every dollar (or euro) of investment in such treatment programs would bring a return of 3 – 5 times more in recovered economic contributions and years of healthy life

About 30 % of total disability costs are due to mental health disorders, said a director at WHO.

The Brussels Times (Source: Belga)

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