Mental Health Deserves Equal Treatment

Nov 30, 2017


The data is in: the inequities for people seeking mental health care are real.

On November 30, NAMI released its third nationwide parity report, The Doctor is Out. The report found that, despite the federal parity law, people lack the same access to mental health providers as they have for other medical providers.

“Treatment is very expensive, mostly out-of-network, and at least in the area we are in, there is a shortage of psychiatrists.” Cami

More than 1 out of 3 respondents (34%) with private insurance had difficulty finding a mental health therapist, compared to only 13% reporting difficulty finding a medical specialist.

And when people did find a mental health provider, many were forced to go out-of-network and pay high out-of-pocket costs. This happened at much higher rates than when seeking primary or even specialty medical care.

Over 1 in 4 people (28%) receiving mental health therapy used an out-of-network therapist, compared to only 7% needing to use an out-of-network medical specialist.

Now, a report from Milliman also found a pattern of stark differences in payment rates for mental health providers and access to mental health care under private health insurance across 50 states, three years and 42 million lives.

And this means that people with mental illness aren’t getting the care they deserve.

You can help fix this. Call or email your state insurance regulator (find a list here) and ask that they ensure that health plans in our your state are not violating your parity rights.

Sample email or phone script:

[Use the title from the list above], a recent report with data from private insurance plans revealed what I already know: people must seek mental health care out-of-network much more frequently than for other health care.

It’s time to level the playing field. Please conduct regular, random market audits for parity compliance on all commercial health insurance and Medicaid managed care plans. 

NAMI HelpLine is available M-F, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. ET. Call 800-950-6264,
text “helpline” to 62640, or chat online. In a crisis, call or text 988 (24/7).