It’s been almost a year and a half since the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act became law. But instead of expanding coverage for mental health services, it appears that the act has actually encouraged some employers and insurers to curtail coverage.
For one thing, therapists offering services for relationship problems — which often need to include a client’s family or spouse — are being denied payment by insurance companies even when the client is being treated for depression. That’s according to psychologists Michael Hoyt and San Rafael, CA and Alan Gurman, of the Clinical Handbook of Couple Therapy.
In the May/June issue of Psychotherapy Networker, Hoyt says some HMOs are using medical necessity to restrict coverage to “brief cognitive therapies.”
Second, remember that the Parity Act only applies to group policies for businesses employing more than 50 people. And it doesn’t require mental health coverage at all — just that if a plan does have mental health coverage, it has to offer similar benefits to the medical side.
This loophole — as some health care analysists predicted — has resulted in a loss of mental health coverage at some companies. Almost one out of 10 companies (9%) with more than 50 employees that had previously offered mental health coverage have dropped it altogether, according to a Kaiser Foundation report cited by Psychotherapy Networker.
OptumHealth in New Mexico has launched a training program aimed at offering more mental health services for the Hispanic Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community.
State officials point to a “high rate of mental illness and substance use among Hispanics” and are anxious to improve access to care.
The training program, developed by the National Latino Behavioral Health Association and Equality New Mexico, was designed to educate behavioral health care providers about the stress factors within the Hispanic and LGBT communities and how clients can be best treated.
Clinicians who take the one-day training course receive six continuing education units.
- John Nelander, Contributing Editor