Bee Examines Blue Cross Policy To Limit Children’s Access to Psychiatric Treatments After One Year
The Sacramento Bee yesterday examined a one-year-old Blue Cross of California policy that requires children with mental illness to visit a specialist before they can receive prescriptions for antipsychotic treatments -- a policy that "seems to be working." Blue Cross introduced the policy in response to concerns about the "growing use of psychiatric drugs in preschoolers." A study released in May by the National Center for Health Statistics found that antipsychotic use in U.S. children younger than age 18 increased 281% between 1995 and 2000. Under the Blue Cross policy, pharmacists must place antipsychotic prescriptions for children on hold until they contact the physician who prescribed the treatment and determine whether the children have visited a specialist. In cases where children have not visited a specialist, Blue Cross refers children to a psychiatrist or neurologist. Blue Cross has made exceptions in cases where a physician convinces the insurer that a child "has been adequately evaluated." The policy "signals a recognition ... that most psychiatric drugs have not been proved safe and effective in young children" and "reflects a broadening awareness that behavior and emotional disorders in children demand thorough evaluations and ongoing care," the Bee reports. Blue Cross said that primary care physicians have "accepted" the policy, and mental health experts "generally applaud it as a way to prevent misdiagnosis or premature prescribing" of antipsychotic treatments, the Bee reports (Griffith, Sacramento Bee, 9/9).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.