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Monday, May 16, 2011

Mental Health Insurance Parity

Question: My son has been having anxiety attacks about once a week for a few months already.  However, my insurance has very bad coverage for mental health and I can’t really afford it.  I heard something about health care reform changing mental health insurance.  Is it true?  And if so, how can I take advantage of it?
                                                                                     -Susan M., Flushing, NY

Answer: A challenging situation, but I strongly encourage you to take your son in for treatment.  Most clinics have a sliding scale based on income etc. and although it may still be very difficult, the other option could have long-term effects especially on a child.

As part of health care reform, “mental health parity” laws were passed.  They require that any PRIVATE insurance provider give the same level of coverage to mental healthcare that they do for physical healthcare, however this law has just begun to be implemented and does not apply to any public insurance provider such as Medicare or Medicaid. 

In New York State, a similar law was passed in 2006 called “Timothy’s Law”.  It mandates employers to provide specific minimum levels of coverage for mental healthcare.  The details of the law are beyond the scope of this column, however you can learn more about it at www.timothyslaw.org.

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