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Survey Issued On Awareness Of Mental Health Insurance Coverage

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month. The American Psychological Association has issued a survey on people’s awareness of a 2008 law that requires insurance companies to provide coverage for mental and behavioral health coverage.

The 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act requires that mental and behavioral health coverage be equal to or better than medical and physical coverage.
An American Psychological Association survey conducted by Harris Poll finds that 90 percent of Americans are unfamiliar with that law.  Association Executive Director of Professional Practice Dr. Katherine Nordal says it affords people easier and more cost-effective access to mental health care.  "Prior to the parity law there were separate deductibles for mental health care, for example. And very,  very frequently the co-payment was higher than the co-payment for my primary care doctor and maybe even some other specialty care.  So no longer can deductibles be multiple and no longer can the co-pay for the mental health professionals covered under the plan be out of line with the kind of deductibles that people use to pay for other health care."

Stigma has been a reason people remain hesitant to seek services, but Dr. Nordal says it is not the primary deterrent.  "Cost has really been the biggest factor in keeping people from getting the mental healthcare that they needed. And the good news about the Parity Act combined with the Affordable Care Act is that these services are now going to be more readably available in terms of access and more affordable for most  insured persons."

The Mental Health Association in New York State promotes mental health awareness and recovery. CEO Glenn Liebman says people are benefiting from New York’s Timothy’s Law and the federal parity law.  "We’re in a watershed moment in which there should be greater public awareness. New York State is doing more about integration between mental health and physical health. And I think that people should be taking greater advantage of the fact that there is a strong federal parity law and a state parity law on the books as well."

Liebman is concerned that a majority of people are unfamiliar with their mental health benefits.  "The reality is that one in five people in this country have some sort of mental health diagnosis. And a very small percentage of that one in five actually seek mental health services. One of the major reasons why is that people perceive that there are stumbling blocks through insurance. Most of you have a really robust package of benefits through your insurance carrier. So you do have equity in terms of quality mental health coverage."

The survey and a consumer guide is on the American Psychological Association’s website.

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