Aetna has launched a virtual group therapy program for women, as part of its work to increase behavioral health access to populations disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
Throughout the month of May, the insurer will host six free, virtual group therapy sessions for women-identifying enrollees, under a program named Here 4 U. These sessions will be led by an experienced mental health professional and are aimed at creating a space for beneficiaries to anonymously share how COVID-19 has impacted them.
The insurer decided to focus conversations on these groups "because women, particularly mothers and caregivers, feel abandoned and betrayed by society and are experiencing an even greater set of challenges," Aetna said in a statement. Two of the sessions are available for all women, one is for mothers, another is for Black women and another is for mothers of children with special needs. This is not the first time Aetna has held virtual group therapy sessions—in February, the insurer held a session for beneficiaries ages 18 to 24.
A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey highlighted the toll the pandemic has taken on women's mental health.
In March, the not-for-profit found that 51% of women said the pandemic has impacted their mental health, compared to 34% of men. A fifth of women said the impact was major. KFF noted the coronavirus has affected working families' job situation and highlighted the already pressing need for affordable childcare.
At the start of the pandemic, the retail, hospitality and health services industries were among the sectors most impacted by the economic upheaval caused by the coronavirus, and are areas where traditionally dominated by women who were then let go at a disproportionate rate. In April 2020, approximately 55% of workers laid off were women despite women's workforce representation coming in at 49%, according to an analysis by the National Women's Law Center, with companies disproportionately letting minority women off their payrolls. In the health services sector, women represented 83% of job losses.
These job losses exacerbated an existing problem facing women in the workforce.
Before the pandemic, more than 40% of women left the workforce after having children, according to Harvard Business Review. Those now still working are questioning their careers—a recent WerkLabs report found that more than half of the 2,000 working parents surveyed did not have anyone to care for their children. One in five respondents were considering permanently leaving their job.
Aetna's initiative aims to create a sense of camaraderie among women, whether they are now working, focusing full-time on caregiving or a mixture of both. The announcement highlights how insurers are increasingly focused on providing behavioral health resources for members.
In February, officials from Centene Corp., Humana, Magellan Health and more partnered through the Psych Hub online education platform to develop quality metrics for measuring behavioral health providers and identify ways to better integrate mental health services into the members' continuum of care. In April, Cigna announced it was partnering with Ginger to provide virtual behavioral therapy to its 14 million members. And earlier this month, CVS Health announced plans to station therapists at some of its nearly 10,000 retail stores.