Major Life Challenges Blog Series

We are taking a closer look at some of the big issues we all can face in our lifetime. Each topic will be featured as a blog series.

The Cost of Mental Health

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Medical Debt Mental HealthAccording to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), “About one in four adults in the United States suffers from a mental disorder in a given year, with about 6 percent suffering from a serious mental illness.” Mental health issues can cause a multitude of complications including a strain on your finances.

The AHRQ has also found mental disorders as one of the five most costly conditions in the United States in 2006, with care expenditures rising from $35.2 billion in 1996 to 57.5 billion in 2006. While the results are a bit dated it is safe to say mental health issues are an expense many of us are unable to afford.

Who should pay?

If you are employed full-time chances are your employer picks up some or most of the tab for your health insurance. But, does you insurance cover mental illness? Many policies do not; why?

If physical health is important to our work performance shouldn’t mental health be considered equally important? This has long been debated and legislation was passed in the form of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act.  

Beginning on January 1, 2010 this law required health insurance to cover both mental and physical health equally. Under this law, insurance companies can no longer arbitrarily limit the number of hospital days or outpatient treatment sessions, or assign higher co-payments or deductibles for those in need of psychological services.

  • Equal benefits. Means that benefits coverage for mental health and substance use treatments must be at least equal to that coverage provided for physical health services.
  • Equal limits. All of the financial requirements and treatment limitations applied to mental health and substance use benefits may be no more restrictive than for physical health benefits.
  • Equal cost-sharing. The new law prohibits the use of higher patient cost-sharing (deductibles, co-payments, maximum-out-of-pocket costs) for mental health and substance use benefits than for physical benefits. For example, your co-payment for psychotherapy will be the same amount as your co-pay for an office visit with your family physician.

What if I don’t have insurance?

Linda Edelstein, Ph.D. realizes that one of the real problems with obtaining mental health services is the cost.  Most people rely on insurance to cover all or part of their payments. If you are without insurance or have inadequate coverage she suggests:

  • If you are a student. This includes grade school, high school or college you may be offered counseling for free or at a greatly discounted rate. Check the school. 
  • Community mental health centers.  These still exist, although not in the numbers of years ago.  They work on a sliding scale.
  • Clinics connected to training institutions.  These often offer free or greatly discounted services because they want to give their graduate students an opportunity to work with people. Graduate students are well trained and well supervised.
  • Ask your clinician. Some may be willing to discount their services, particularly if you can be flexible about days and times.

Mental health is just as important as your physical health. If you are suffering and need help don’t let roadblocks such as your employee sponsored health plan or lack of insurance hold you back from receiving the help you need.

If you were unable to receive the care you needed please share your story!

To Read More Post From our Blog Series; Medical Debt, Expect the Unexpected, click here.

Suzanne is a certified credit counselor and a Social Media Specialist for CareOne Debt Relief Services. Suzanne writes for Divorce, Debt and Finances and Major Life Challenges. Follow Suzanne on Twitter @ADivorcedMom where she shares her insights as a single-divorced mom with tips and tricks to keep your finances in check. 

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