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Are You Leaving Money & Care on the Table?

Mental Health Parity Act

Are you leaving money and emotional and mental health care on the table because you’re uninformed? Read on.

The results of a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), in conjunction with Harris Interactive, were  just published. The work is entitled, “Your Mental Health: A Survey of Americans’ Understanding of the Mental Health Parity Law.”

The results are interesting, so let’s take a look.

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act

After a 12 year battle, the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (The Act) was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2008. It went into effect for most insurance plans on January 1st of this year.

The Act requires group health plans, and health insurance issuers, to ensure that financial requirements (such as co-pays and deductibles) and treatment limitations (such as visit limits) applicable to mental health or substance use disorder benefits are no more restrictive than the predominant requirements or limitations applied to substantially all medical/surgical benefits.

Surprising Survey Results

Passage and signing of The Act was a hard earned victory for those enduring emotional and mental health disorders – actually, all Americans. Naturally, the majority of Americans are now dialed-in and ready to put it to work for them. Right?

Wrong!

According to the survey…

  • Only 7% of Americans have heard of the term mental health parity. And even fewer have heard of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008.
  • Though more than half of those surveyed reported having adequate mental health care, nearly 1/3 reported they don’t know if they have adequate coverage.
  • Granted, most surveyed had health insurance; however, some 50% that have insurance aren’t sure if it reimburses for mental health care.
  • Not knowing if it’s appropriate, and not knowing how to find the correct professional, were the two major reasons for potentially not seeking mental health treatment.
  • 25% of those surveyed reported having received mental health care. And 75% of these used their insurance benefits.
  • The top reasons insurance wasn’t used were the individual didn’t have it or there was little or no cost difference.
  • When asked why the individual or his/her family members might not seek treatment, concerns over cost and coverage topped the list. Very few reported stigma as an issue (that’s encouraging).

Interesting, don’t you think?

Thoughts & Conclusion

Again, a lot of hard work – fighting – was done to secure passage and signing of The Act. Now, I know it went into effect more than two years after becoming law; however, it’s up to each of us to keep current on such things. You can be sure your insurance company isn’t going to send friendly reminders.

Take the time to find out the specifics of your emotional and mental health care coverage – and use it!

You know, as delighted as I am that emotional and mental health care insurance benefits now have financial and treatment limitation parity with medical situations (as if there’s a difference), there’s much more work to be done.

What about emotional and mental health care coverage for those who can’t afford it? I’m telling you, even if they can access care, it isn’t of the quality that those with insurance can secure. And that just isn’t right.

There’s always something interesting to read on the American Psychological Association’s website. Check it out here. If you’d like to read the entire survey, just click here.

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  • Aschica20

    What about private disability insurance that do not cover bipolar, depression or any mental illness of this type. I paid Aflac for disability insurance for many years, but when I was out of work for over two months last year, they denied my claim because they do not cover mental illness. However, I was very sick and could not go to work.

    • Hi Aschica! Thank you for visiting chipur and commenting. Emotional and mental illnesses always seem to take the back seat when it comes to insurance coverage. And I’ll tell you, it just isn’t right. It’s amazing to me the number of loopholes insurance companies come up with when it comes to the definition of “disabled” – especially with regard to conditions such as the mood and anxiety disorders. I’m sorry you had such a rough time. Come back and visit anytime!!!

  • LLind79

    What happens with insurers like Aflac? If a person is admitted to a 7 day inpatients stay for a biological disorder they did not know they had (Bi-polar II) in New Hampshire where there is parity, does Aflac have to pay the claim? I have a hospitalization rider that entitles me to benefits for being hospitalized.

    • Appreciate your visit and comment. Let me browse about a bit tonight/tomorrow a.m. and see if I can learn anything.

    • Well, I nosed around on the web and couldn’t find anything helpful. Only thing I can suggest is to thoroughly read your policy and take it from there. There may well be a mental health exclusion. With regard to parity, it may be effective only for policies commencing January 1 of this year.