Mental Health Parity in the United States
What is Mental Health Parity? Mental health parity is the access to money for mental health care as physical health care (NAMI “What is Mental Health Parity”).
Why is it important? Mental health parity is important for two reasons. First, according to a recent comprehensive study of access to mental health care, America’s Mental Health 2018, one of the main reasons that the United States is facing the mental health crisis it is right now is because of the lack of access to mental health services (The National Council). Second, mental health care needs to be covered because of how expensive it is. According to the American Psychological Association, $187.8 billion (Winerman) are spent each year on mental health services which includes both an individuals’ out-of-pocket costs as well as spending by private and government insurance programs. This is because it costs thousands of dollars for a patient to be admitted and hundreds of dollars for therapy.
What is the current status of mental health parity in the United States? Although the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act made a big step in the right direction, there have been many challenges in enforcing it. One challenge has been the “subtle discriminatory practices” (Johnson) from insurance companies in the ways they cover mental health related services.
Mental Health Parity in North Carolina
North Carolina, along with about 30 other states received an F when being graded for “how well its laws support federal laws passed more than a decade ago calling for mental health to be treated on par with physical health” (Duong). North Carolina received this grade because since the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act was passed in 2008 North Carolina has failed to pass laws that enforces it and ensures that insurance companies provide people with the care they need.
The Effects of a Lack of Mental Health Parity on Americans
What can you do?
- Raise Awareness – One reason that this problem hasn’t been fixed is because not enough people are aware of the problem. Tell your friends, your family, and even your dog. Make sure that people are aware that even if a law has been passed, that doesn’t mean the problem has been fixed.
- Talk to your representatives – Make sure that your national and local representatives know that you want stricter regulations on insurance companies so that they are required to provide full mental health care to all of their customers without exception.
- Donate and Get Involved – There are tons of organizations that are still fighting for mental health. The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) is a great example of an organization that is committed to mental health parity and would love your support and donations. Go to their website (linked above and find your local chapter of NAMI. Another organization dedicated to Mental Health Parity is the Kennedy Forum.
Comments and Feedback
In the comments below, please let me know what you think by answering the following three questions
> Had you heard of the mental health parity issue before today?
> Do you think that mental health and physical health should be treated equally?
> What can you do in your community to help raise awareness and bring change to the way that mental health is covered in your community?
Please reach out with any other questions or comments you have about my presentation.