What would you choose: long wait or expensive? Nobody wants either, but when it comes to mental healthcare, these are usually the only options.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness released a report last month saying, “Despite the federal parity law, the promise of parity remains elusive.”
Mental health parity, in which mental health insurance benefits are no less restrictive than general medical benefits, has been federally mandated in some fashion for almost 30 years.
But before the Affordable Care Act, major depressive disorders, bipolar disorders, schizophrenia and similar mental health issues were put in the “high risk” insurance pool and considered a pre-existing condition —which meant either no independent insurance coverage or ridiculously high monthly rates.
With Obamacare, people suffering from mental health issues have access to more affordable health insurance, but not enough resources are available for it to be beneficial.
Long wait-list periods, overwhelmed medical professionals and/or spotty insurance coverage are unfortunately normal occurrences — if there’s even a mental health practitioner nearby.
NAMI released a study last month showing about one out of four Americans didn’t have an in-network mental health medication prescriber available to them.
Insurance plans also can have confusing or outdated information. People seeking mental healthcare can find that psychiatrists listed as “in-network” are not accepting new patients, are retired/not practicing or have moved.
Some people decide to forgo the confusing and restrictive network and pay out-of-pocket for mental health services, which can get expensive fast.
And even with paying out-of-pocket, mental health practitioners aren’t widely accessible.
Hogg Foundation of Mental Health reports that 206 out of 254 Texas counties had some kind of medical health professional shortage as of July 2015, that 185 of those counties didn’t have a single psychiatrist and that 149 didn’t have a single licensed psychologist.
Over 3 million Texans didn’t have reasonable access to mental healthcare in 2015.
How is this parity?
The promise of mental health parity must be fulfilled.