Americans list lack of insurance coverage and cost as top reasons for not seeking mental health services

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Insurance coverage problems and costs supplant stigma as the number one obstacle to accessing mental health services according to a survey commissioned by the American Psychological Association.

Americans say it’s lack of insurance coverage (87%) or cost (81%) that most keeps them from seeing a mental health professional with 65% citing lack of insurance coverage as a very important reason for not seeking treatment. Survey results also show that 85% of Americans say health insurance should cover mental health services and that 97% of Americans believe access to mental health services is important with nearly three in four considering such services very important, on par with dental care.

“Health care coverage in this country needs to catch up with what people increasingly understand…the mind and body are linked inextricably,” says Russ Newman, Ph.D., J.D., executive director for the American Psychological Association Practice Organization. “Congress can help improve access to mental health services and end insurance discrimination against those suffering from mental health disorders by passing the Paul Wellstone Mental Health Equitable Treatment Act.”

The Paul Wellstone Mental Health Equitable Treatment Act (S. 486/H.R. 953) would put insurance coverage for mental health services on par with physical health services. The bill also improves the 1996 Parity Act by requiring parity for coinsurance, deductibles, day and visit limits and maximum out of pocket caps.

More than 44 million Americans suffer from a mental health disorder. According to the U.S. Surgeon General’s 1999 report, only one third of people suffering from a mental health disorder receive treatment.

“Having a mental health disorder can be as serious as having a heart attack or any other debilitating, life-threatening physical health disorder and can in fact, contribute to physical ailments. With the passage of this bill, insurers may no longer arbitrarily limit the number of hospital days or outpatient treatment sessions, or use higher copayments or deductibles for people in need of mental health care, thus closing loopholes in the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996,” says Newman.

The survey of 1,000 Americans was conducted by Penn Schoen & Berland on January 26-27. All respondents were between the ages of 18 and 64 years old. The margin of error for the study is ± 3.1 at the 95th percent level.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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