Due to the seemingly ever-increasing costs of healthcare in the United States, more and more Americans have come to rely on their health insurance to cover most, if not all, of their healthcare needs.
While government officials and the press may focus on medical treatments and hospital procedures that run in the five and six figures, our mental health is as important as our physical health when it comes to living productive, fulfilling, and happy lives. Unfortunately, mental health care has long been under-covered when compared with the physical health insurance offered by most health insurers.
Although mental healthcare services may not be as expensive as a triple bypass, the ability to afford mental health services and whether or not the services are covered by insurance are often decisive factors in many people’s considerations of whether or not to get help for the mental and emotional difficulties they face.
Thankfully, recent parity laws have begun to increase the amount and level of mental health care covered by most health insurance plans, opening access to mental health treatment for a growing number of Americans.
Given the negative effects severe anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and other serious mental health conditions have on those who suffer from them, the choice between receiving treatment and not getting help is really no choice at all. And, fortunately, treatment for these severe and debilitating conditions is now covered by most health insurance plans.
That having been said, many health insurance policies offer limited coverage, if any at all, for mental health services that aren’t deemed “medically necessary,” such as couples counseling or therapy that is undertaken in order to overcome obstacles to our personal, professional, or relationship success.
And, even if these types of mental health services are covered by your health insurance, there are other considerations to be taken into account before deciding to use health insurance to pay for such services.
How Important is Your Confidentiality?
Your confidentiality becomes a real concern when using health insurance to pay for mental health services.
For counseling and therapy to be effective, you must feel free to disclose difficult and often painful information to your therapist. And your therapist is required to keep anything you disclose in the strictest confidence. When you’re paying for counseling out of your own pocket, this confidential relationship remains strictly between you and your therapist.
However, all managed care plans involve direct clinical management by the plan’s case managers. If you access therapy through managed care, your therapist must be willing to disclose anything and everything related to your case to your insurer.
It is quite possible that any confidential information you do disclose to your therapist will then be stored in the insurer’s computer system, which could be accessed by anyone. Not only that, but the FBI and other law enforcement officials can access your insurance information at any time and this information could easily be used against you should a legal problem arise.
Furthermore, this lack of confidentiality could negatively impact your children. Should your children ever desire to apply for certain jobs or educational programs, such as in the military or law enforcement, the information in insurance files could be used against them.
If not knowing who has access to your therapeutic records makes you less comfortable about disclosing the sensitive information you need to discuss in order for therapy to be effective, you may want to think twice about using health insurance to pay for mental health services.
Who Is in Control?
If the question of confidentiality isn’t serious enough, there’s also the question of who’s in control of your treatment when you access mental health services through an insurance provider or managed care plan.
Many managed care and health insurance plans limit the number of therapy sessions they’ll cover to a preset limit, as opposed to basing the length of treatment on the needs of the individual client.
Furthermore, some managed care plans even want to control your treatment plan. Some will dictate the types of treatments you’re allowed to receive and how long you can receive them, including terminating your treatment even when you continue to experience distress. Needless to say, this control is often very subjective and can be anti-therapeutic.
In the end, if you’re in need of mental health services, always remember that there are multiple options available to help you afford the care you desire. So, thoroughly review the different treatment options available as well as your health insurance plan before deciding whether to pay for mental health care out of your own pocket or to have your insurance provider pick up the tab.
Lastly, be sure to discuss any questions or concerns you have with your therapist before beginning treatment. While the cost of health care is a real concern, the finances of mental health shouldn’t stop you from getting the care you need.
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