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EDITORIAL: Insurance companies fail to provide proper mental health coverage



Wednesday Illo

Patients are struggling to get access to mental health treatment because of their health insurers, according to a study by Milliman, a risk management and health care consulting company, even though Congress passed the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act almost 10 years ago.

Under this act, mental health and substance abuse treatment should be just as obtainable as treatment for any other condition, but this has yet to happen. 

Accessible mental health care needs to become a higher priority for insurance providers.

There is a large discrepancy in health insurance between providing for physical and mental health care. For example, the study found that insurers paid primary care providers 20 percent more than they paid addiction and mental health specialists for the same types of care. 

In nine states, insurance payment toward primary care providers is 50 percent more than mental health care providers. This makes mental health-specific treatment extremely difficult to obtain. 

Many people are left to find this care out-of-network, which leads to high out-of-pocket costs and ultimately an inability to afford mental health care at all.

This is not solely the fault of the insurance providers. Sometimes the care facilities themselves are to blame.

Due to low reimbursement rates, some mental health care facilities choose not to cooperate with insurance providers in hopes of attracting clients with the resources to pay out-of-pocket, and therefore usually with less serious mental health conditions. 

This is a disturbing trend that leaves those with serious mental health conditions who rely on their insurance for health care without any options for mental health treatment and recovery. 

Insurance providers should also focus on providing forms of mental health care outside of prescription drugs. 

For example, multiple types of therapy should be made more accessible to those who need it. Under the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, there can not be a limit for insurance-covered therapist or psychologist visits during a year.

While the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act helps mental health care receive the same benefits as physical health care, unfortunately, not every health insurance provider has mental health care benefits. 

If the insurance plan does not provide any benefits for mental health, the act does not apply.

It is unfortunate that some health insurance providers do not provide mental health benefits at all. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and everyone who needs treatment should be able to access it with help from their insurance providers.

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