Few Americans Aware of Mental Health Coverage

Though mental health problems remain the leading cause in the United States and Canada, an estimated 10.7 million Americans are not receiving the mental health care they need.  Part of the problem may stem from a lack of awareness of the basic rights most people with health coverage have in dealing with a mental health problem  

According to a new American Psychological Association (APA) survey, only four percent of Americans are aware of their right to coverage under the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act.    Under the Act, which was enacted in 2008, health insurers and group health plans are required to provide coverage equivalent to the coverage received for physical health conditions.   The parity law requires insurers to provide mental health care that is equal to or better than physical health coverage with no annual limits, co-pays, or deductibles.   The law applies to most employer-provided health plans and to individual plans available through state and federal health insurance exchanges. 

Despite increased attention paid to mental health issues, as well as the National Dialogue on Mental Health sponsored by the White House,  the results of the latest APA survey are little changed from a similar survey done in 2010.   “More access to mental health care is the rallying cry, but the simple fact is many people may already have coverage and not know it or not understand how to use it,” said Katherine C. Nordal PhD, APA’s executive director for professional practice. “The mental health parity law, together with the Affordable Care Act, has expanded mental health treatment opportunities to many Americans in need who may otherwise have gone untreated. But laws don’t have the intended effect when people don’t know that they exist."

Though 61 percent of the adults in the APA survey reported having coverage, only a small percentage were actually aware of specific details of that coverage.   When asked if they would attend treatment, 20 percent suggested that cost would be a barrier and that they would need information on their coverage before seeking help.  

The American Psychological Association maintains an online page providing resources for people wanting more information on how they are covered under the Parity Law.  The page includes links to mental health resources as well as an instructional video.

APA Resources Page.

 

           

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