At Ethera, our goal is to push back against the tech companies that dominate our industry.
The Impact of Alma and Headway on the
Mental Health Industry
Alma and Headway have recently gained significant attention as two prominent players in the mental health tech industry. While these companies offer appealing features – especially for new therapists aiming to build their caseloads quickly – there are concerns about their influence on the profession and the mental health industry as a whole. Let’s examine some of the challenges associated with these platforms.
Data Sharing Considerations
Alma and Headway offer a higher reimbursement rate for therapists, but this increased reimbursement rate comes with some trade-offs. These companies profit by taking a substantial percentage of the provider’s pay, but they also have access to a wealth of data generated by you and your clients. Partnered with major insurance companies and tech giants, Alma and Headway may be able to negotiate higher rates with insurers in exchange for sharing this data. These privacy concerns are not unfounded. Recently, Headway has been slammed with a class action suit for sharing private information with Google. Interestingly enough, Google Ventures is one of their biggest investors. The sharing of data comes with its own set of pros and cons that should not be ignored and needs careful consideration. While the inevitability of AI in various professions is apparent, platforms like Alma and Headway can accelerate this trend, potentially leading to a future where AI plays a more dominant role in mental health, which could impact therapists’ practices significantly.
The Influence of Investors
Alma and Headway have attracted hundreds of millions of dollars in investments and these investors include insurance companies and tech giants such as United Healthcare-Optum, Cigna, Google, and Andreessen Horowitz. While the exact implications of these partnerships remain unclear, it’s important to recognize the potential for conflicts of interest. Historically, such alliances have resulted in the providers facing increased fees and decreased reimbursement rates, with profits prioritized over therapist and client well-being.
Financial Considerations: Given that both companies are billion-dollar tech giants with around 30,000 therapists in their networks, potential control over rates and data and monopolization of the market is concerning. Therapists are encouraged to conduct thorough research before making decisions about their involvement with these platforms.
One critical issue is the lack of transparency regarding payment rates. Both Alma and Headway have been criticized for not disclosing how much they receive from insurance companies for each therapy session. This information has been gathered through research on various message boards/forums/social media groups, and input from therapists using these platforms.
For example, here are some approximate percentages for service fees (Alma has a monthly fee of $125 on top of these service fees) —
Cigna Evernorth: 40%-50% service fee
Aetna: 25%-35% service fee
United Healthcare Optum: 25%-35% service fee
In contrast, Ethera’s approach is transparent with straightforward rates and an 8.75% service fee to cover administrative expenses for credentialing, billing, and customer support. Ethera also has significantly higher reimbursement rates for Cigna.
How Ethera is Different
Supporting Local Providers
Ethera is a local business dedicated to supporting local providers; we are not a billion-dollar company driven by investors with a profit-first mindset. Our main goal is to support therapists. We offer therapists the option to accept insurance clients for a higher reimbursement rate, while also providing a more personal and responsive experience compared to large corporations. We are accessible by phone or in person, ensuring that therapists have real people to connect with, rather than automated emails and AI bots.
Empowering Supervisory Billing
One crucial distinction that sets our contract apart from Alma and Headway is our support for supervisory billing. Our contract enables therapists to have associates working under their supervision and submit claims for the services provided by these associates. The process for supervisory billing is straightforward, mirroring the standard claims submission process.
It’s worth noting that Alma and Headway do not offer the option for supervisory billing, which can be a significant limitation for therapists who wish to oversee and bill for services provided by associates under their guidance. This flexibility in our contract aims to empower therapists and provide them with a valuable tool for managing their practice and expanding their services.
Negotiating Rates and Our Commitment to Transparency
Our philosophy is distinct from that of billion-dollar tech giants. We prioritize transparency, protection, and support for your practice’s growth. Our goal is to grow together, ensuring that therapists and our network benefit mutually. We believe in an open and honest approach to business, and we are committed to supporting your practice and helping you thrive in the evolving mental health landscape.
While we cannot provide a guarantee of an annual rate increase, we are confident in our understanding of the system and our ability to negotiate higher rates each year and pass those increases on to our network of providers. The more therapists we have in our network, the stronger our position becomes when negotiating for higher rates. Collaboration and collective strength are key to achieving these favorable outcomes.
A Balanced Perspective
In shedding light on the challenges and concerns associated with Alma and Headway, we want to clarify that we do not aim to spread negativity about these companies. These platforms can indeed be valuable for therapists trying to grow their practice rapidly. Because they’ve had such large investments, they’ve been able to build out their platforms quickly and efficiently. However, it’s essential to recognize that there are some significant costs to the mental health industry that potentially accompany services like these.
Unfortunately, the wheels of large tech companies have started rolling in the mental health industry, and it may be challenging to stop. With around 30,000 therapists under Alma and Headway, there is a growing concern that power may shift away from individual therapists, placing them at the mercy of shareholders and corporate interests.
The rise of Alma and Headway has brought both opportunities and challenges to the mental health profession. While these platforms can help therapists build their practices quickly, concerns about transparency, high fees, potential monopolization, and conflicts of interest loom large. As the industry evolves, it’s crucial for therapists to make informed decisions and for regulators to consider the need for safeguards against monopolization and undue influence, as has been explored in other sectors dominated by tech giants. Our aim is to provide therapists with the information and options needed to make well-informed decisions that align with their professional goals and values.
Whether you are new to private practice, growing your business, or simply looking to join a community of peers, our programming and services will nurture the therapist-client relationship and elevate your practice. How does that sound?
If you are interested in joining the Ethera community, we would love to hear from you.