There have been many broad-based proclamations about the sorry state of mental health care in America in the media recently, often prompted by some tragedy involving someone that has been diagnosed as mental ill. Fortunately, more people will soon have health insurance that provides mental health coverage through the new healthcare laws passed by the federal government. However, having mental health coverage only goes so far when there aren’t enough healthcare professionals who accept it or there aren’t any available practitioners nearby or they aren’t taking any new patients.
Having mental health insurance coverage is very important given the high number of people that are suffering from mental conditions. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 26% of adults experience a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year, and 6% of all adults experience a seriously debilitating mental illness. The statistics are no better for teenagers. 21% of teenagers experience a severe emotional disturbance between the ages of 13 and 18.
Many people do not realize how much mental health care insurance is available. According to a survey from the Society for Human Resource Management, 85% of employers of all sizes, including nonprofits and government entities, offer at least some type of mental health insurance coverage. Of employers with more than 500 employees, 84% covered in-network and out-of-network mental health and substance abuse treatments.
There has historically been less mental health coverage than there has been for other illnesses. In the past, many insurance providers and employers questioned whether mental disorders existed at all. There were also questions about whether the treatment methods used actually worked and concerns about cost and the frequency of people seeking costly mental health treatments.
Some people who have no health insurance or who buy it on their own may avoid purchasing mental health coverage too because of the additional expense. These people may avoid seeking treatment for things like addiction or depression, hoping that they can correct the issues themselves. Some adults who have good insurance coverage still avoid treatment for mental illness for other reasons.
Edward A. Kaplan, senior vice president and national practice leader for union benefits consultant the Segal Company, said, “Culturally, a lot of people driving trucks don’t believe in it and suffer through, and a lot of transport unions don’t trust employers and think they will look at it and use it to retaliate against the workers.” But mental health issues usually do not just go away on their own. Law school professor Lorri Unumb said, “You pay for it now or you pay for it later. And you pay for it a lot more if you choose later, in more ways than just financial.”