When you’re dealing with mental health issues or substance abuse, you need good care. But even with health insurance, many people find that coverage for mental health and substance abuse treatment is anemic, at best.
The Affordable Care Act aims to bring mental health and substance abuse services on par with medical care, as I discussed in this earlier post. The law achieves this by including services for mental health and substance abuse in the package of essential benefits – services that health plans must cover in order to sell plans on the health insurance exchanges. The exchanges will go into effect in 2014.
More specifically, the law requires employers with 50 or more workers offering a group health plan with mental health benefits to treat those benefits as equal to those provided for medical coverage. That means that elements such as out-of-pocket costs and benefit limits must be the same for mental health care as for medical care.
Also in 2014, insurers will no longer be able to deny coverage as a result of a pre-existing condition, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse or bipolar disorder, among other mental health diagnoses.
You won’t be charged more for your plan, either. All this promises greater access to inpatient and outpatient mental health services.
Finding Affordable Mental Health Care
Until mental health parity is in play for everyone, however, many people, including those with health insurance, find it challenging to access care at prices they can afford.
If you’re in need of mental health and/or substance abuse services, there are places throughout the U.S. that offer low-cost care.
Here are some resources to explore:
- Community mental health agencies provide mental health and substance abuse services, often on a sliding scale. To find an agency near you, contact your state or county health department.
- Mental Health America can connect you with hotlines, support groups and self-help resources, as well as affiliate mental health agencies around the country.
- The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers a mental health locator and a substance abuse facility locator to connect you with services in your area.
- Teaching hospitals are training grounds for graduate students studying to become mental health professionals. You may be able to receive lower-cost care by seeing a student, who will be supervised by licensed professionals.
- Psychology Today’s Therapy Directory allows you to search for individual mental health professionals in your area. Information about each therapist’s fees, which insurance they accept and whether they will work on a sliding fee scale, is available.
- Medicare.gov’s Physician Compare enables Medicare beneficiaries to search for a psychiatrist who accepts Medicare.
Have you found a resource not mentioned to access low-cost mental health or substance abuse services? Join the discussion below and tell us about your experience. Or post another health insurance question. I’ll respond in this blog each Thursday to as many of your questions as I can.
The Healthcare Survival Guide
Mental Health America
The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
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