News From LIFE Inc.

mental-healthU.S. ‘Not There Yet’ on Mental Health Parity

Millions of people who suffer from mental illness or addiction are not getting the treatment they need.

It is more difficult for Americans to find psychiatrists and mental health therapists who participate in their health insurance “networks” than it is to find other kinds of health care providers, according to a survey by National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) that came out last month.

92% of respondents were able to find a medical specialist in their health plan networks, but only 73% were able to find an in-network mental health therapist. They also said they had difficulty finding therapists who accepted their insurance, and said they had to pay higher out-of-pocket costs.

The report suggests that many insurers are not complying with the requirements of federal and state laws that oblige health insurers to provide the same levels of service and reimbursement for mental health and drug addiction treatment as they do for physical health. One of the requirements is that the insurers offer an ample number of in-network mental health practitioners.

Seeing an out-of-network provider is usually far more expensive. NAMI recommends that health plans set higher reimbursement rates for mental health and substance abuse treatment that would attract more providers.

There is also a critical nationwide shortage of mental health professionals. Some patients have to travel 50 miles each way for a visit and there is often a wait list between 6 months and 2 years.

Medicaid came closer to parity than commercial insurers. 82% of respondents using Medicaid said they were able to find an in-network mental health provider, compared to 68% with private insurance.

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