Mental Illness and Health Insurance

mental illness and health insurance text overlaying image of flowers falling out of a cutout of a headIn the last few years mental illness has steadily become a topic of conversation for many people. We’re seeing people take their mental health more seriously. It’s important to take care of your mental health. In fact, it’s just as important as your physical health. Insurers haven’t always seen it this way, though. In the past, many health insurance companies covered physical health problems greater than mental health problems. However, thanks to the Mental Health Parity Act and the Affordable Care Act, health insurance covers mental health the same way it covers physical health. Below we’ll look at both of these laws and why mental health is so important.

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Mental Health Parity Law

The Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Act was passed in 2008. The law is more commonly known as the mental health parity law or the federal parity law. It says that insurance companies must treat coverage for mental illness and behavioral health and substance use disorders the same as coverage for medical and surgical care. This includes treating them the same financially. For example, an insurance company can’t charge a $40 copay for an office visit to a mental health professional when they only charge a $20 copay for most medical office visits. 

 

The parity law also covers limits on treatment that are not related to money. For example, it used to be common to put limits on the number of visits to mental health care that could be made in a year. The law has pretty much done away with these annual limits, but it doesn’t stop the insurance company from putting limits in place that have to do with “medical necessity.”

Health Plans Affected By The Mental Health Parity Law

In general, the following types of health insurance are covered by the mental health parity law:

 

  • Employer group health coverage for companies with more than 50 employees
  • Plans bought through a health insurance exchange 
  • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • Most Medicaid programs, however requirements can vary from one program to another

Some other plans and programs run by the government are still not covered by the parity law. The federal parity law does not apply to Medicare, but it does apply to Medicaid. Some state employee plans, like those that cover teachers and people who work at state universities, can choose not to follow the parity rules.

Diagnoses Covered By The Mental Health Parity Law

The federal parity law covers all mental health and substance-use disorders that a health plan covers. But a health plan can choose to not cover certain diagnoses, whether they are in the physical/medical realm or the behavioral/mental health realm. This is because the parity law doesn’t require insurers to offer mental health benefits. Instead, it says that if mental health benefits are offered, they can’t have stricter requirements than physical health benefits. Your plan’s description of mental health benefits should tell you about any exceptions.

Mental Health And The Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed in 2010, and its goal was to make healthcare more affordable. Plans that follow the ACA guidelines include mental health care as one of the “10 essential health benefits”. This means that if you sign up for an ACA-compliant health plan, your mental health services are covered. The ACA also says that insurance companies have to put a limit on how much customers have to pay out of pocket and that there can’t be limits on how much mental health care is covered annually or for a person’s whole life. These steps make sure that people can get mental health insurance and that it is affordable.

What Mental Health Services Are Covered?

All ACA compliant plans should cover mental health as an essential health benefit. Your plan should cover some or most of the cost of mental health services, just like it would for other medical conditions. All plans under the ACA must cover the following mental illness services:

 

  • Outpatient individual or group counseling and therapy
  • Diagnostic services like psychological testing and evaluation
  • Ongoing outpatient treatment such as treatment programs and medication management
  • Outpatient treatment for alcohol or chemical addictions
  • Detox services
  • Substance abuse recovery treatment
  • Inpatient mental healthcare in a psychiatric facility

Why Mental Health Coverage Is So Important

There are many reasons why having health insurance that covers mental health needs is a good idea. Mental health issues can happen to almost anyone at any time, with most of these issues needing treatment. The cost of therapy and medication can quickly add up and get expensive. If you don’t have insurance for mental health, you would end up paying out-of-pocket for your care. It could easily amount to tens of thousands of dollars. On top of being financially beneficial, mental health coverage can also save lives. If you have a mental health condition, it’s hard to put a price on how important treatment is. Let’s look further into the impact mental health has.

  • Physical Health

Studies show a link between mental health and physical health. Mental illness can cause stress and make our immune systems less effective. Because of this, our bodies may not be able to handle illness as well. When your mind is sick, you might develop anxiety or depression, which can make it difficult if not impossible to stay active. Which can lead to letting your physical health deteriorate and struggle to correct it.

  • Relationships

One of the most interesting reasons why mental health is so important is that it affects your personal relationships. Mental illness can change the way you talk to your friends and family. People with mental illness are often passive-aggressive, hostile, and unable to join social activities. This can cause problems within your emotional support system. Mental illness can make us want to hurt people we care about for no apparent reason. Taking care of our mental health on our own and, if needed, taking medicine can help us live a mentally stable life and keep our relationships.

  • Emotional Well-Being

How you feel on the inside every day is just as important as how healthy your body is. Advice about mental health shows how a negative mind can make you feel sad, angry, or uneasy. Taking care of your emotional health can help you be more productive and effective at work and in your daily life. You can get advice about your mental health from friends, family, and a psychologist to keep an eye on your emotional and overall health.

  • Prevent Suicide

A study by the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) found that 46% of people who kill themselves have a known mental health problem. In another study, the US Department of Health and Human Services found that about 60% of people who killed themselves had a mental illness like major depression, bipolar disorder, or dysthymia. This shows the link between mental health and suicide, as well as how early medical intervention and self-care can help reduce the number of suicide deaths. It is important to follow advice to keep our mental health in good shape and to always be aware of the mental health of those around us If you or someone you care about is in trouble, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). This number is toll-free. Anyone can use this service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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  • Prevents Criminal Behaviors

Some studies show that if you have a mental health condition, you are more likely to commit violent crimes. The risk is even higher if you use drugs and alcohol and refuse to get proper treatment. Mental health conditions are often the cause of someone committing crimes against their family or friends.

  • Financial Stability

One of the many reasons it’s important to take care of your mental health is that it makes you more productive and financially secure. According to research published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, people with serious mental conditions earn 40% less than people without. The World Health Organization also says that depression alone causes nearly 200 million lost workdays every year. It is well known that people with poor mental health are less productive, which hurts their finances. It is important to take care of mental health in the right way if we want good work performance and financial security.

EZ Can Help

Getting help for any signs of mental illness shouldn’t be hard because of how much it costs. We can help if you think you can’t get help because you don’t have enough insurance or can’t afford health insurance. You don’t have to worry about paying for EZ’s help to find an affordable health insurance plan because it is free. We want to make sure that you get the help you need. We’ll give you your own agent, who will compare all the plans available in your area and give you quotes in minutes. We won’t just help you find the best plan, we’ll also sign you up for free. Enter your zip code in the bar below to get free instant quotes, or call 877-670-3557 to talk to a live agent.

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Mental Health Issues On The Rise

Mental illness does not discriminate. It affects people of all ages, genders, ethnicities, and socio-economic classes. Health insurance claims for the treatment of depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders have been steadily rising over the years. Recent job losses and stay-at-home orders have made things even worse, with federal agencies and experts warning that a wave of depression, substance abuse, PTSD, and suicide is on its way. Our already underfunded mental health system is at risk of being overwhelmed. 

black ans white picture of a caucasian woman with her head in her hands.

“If we don’t do something about it now, people are going to be suffering from these mental-health impacts for years to come,” said Paul Gionfriddo, president of the advocacy group Mental Health America. “That could further harm the economy as stress and anxiety debilitate some workers and further strain the medical system as people go to emergency rooms with panic attacks, overdoses and depression.”

High Numbers Among Young Adults & Adolescents

While mental health claims among all Americans have been going up, data reported by FAIR health, a nonprofit database of more than 28 billion private healthcare claim records, shows that they are shockingly high among young adults and adolescents, Between 2007 and 2017, mental health claims relating to depression and anxiety in young people were especially high. 

In 2007, young people accounted for 15% of all claims tied to serious depression. By 2017, they accounted for 23%. Claims for anxiety also grew more common among young people. Between 2007 and 2017, claim lines for generalized anxiety disorder rose 441% among young people ages 19-22. The report also found that behavioral health diagnoses rose 108% from 2007 to 2017.

Suicide Numbers Risingred arrows going up

Suicide rates are also on the rise, with many worried that an increase in mental health issues combined with our current stressful environment could make things worse. A report issued by the CDC found that suicides are up 30% since 1999, and only half of those who died were diagnosed with a mental health disorder prior to their deaths. Unfortunately, many people suffer in silence, and added stresses such as job loss, or relationship, financial, or health problems, can lead to disastrous consequences. 

Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, a Texas nonprofit, created models estimating that if unemployment rates continue to rise to a level similar to the Great Recession, then an additional 4,000 people could die by suicide and an additional 4,800 could die from drug overdoses.

Mental Health Coverage

two men sitting down, one man with a hand on his chin and the other man with his hands on his head.
All ACA-approved plans must cover behavioral health treatment, such as psychotherapy and counseling.

Some experts point out that it’s unclear whether more people are suffering from mental illnesses, or whether we’re getting better at talking about it, recognizing it, and treating it. According to Dr. Stephen Strakowski, a psychiatrist at the University of Texas at Austin’s medical school, “It’s very hard to disentangle [increased prevalence] from increased recognition, more people accessing care, and people being willing to fill out forms more honestly.” 

Research shows that people who need mental health care are more likely to get it now than they were at any time in the past, but things are not perfect. There are still many people who aren’t getting the help they need because they don’t have mental health insurance coverage. Fortunately, as of 2014, the ACA requires all Marketplace healthcare plans to cover mental health and substance abuse services.

All ACA-approved plans must cover:

  • Behavioral health treatment, such as psychotherapy and counseling
  • Mental and behavioral health inpatient services
  • Substance use/abuse disorder treatment

Employer-based health insurance, Medicaid and Medicare all offer mental health and substance abuse coverage. It is important that people are encouraged to use this coverage to get screened for suicidal thoughts, to treat any underlying mental conditions, and to access therapy. Seeking help makes a difference. 

If you or someone you know is showing warning signs of suicide, help is one call away. For free 24/7 crisis support:

  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.
  • Text Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
  • Call Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: 1-800-662-4357

Warning Signs & Symptoms Of An Eating Disorder

An eating disorder is a mental illness that involves abnormal eating, whether not eating at all, binging and purging, or overeating. Eating disorders impact a person’s mental and physical health negatively. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, over 30 million Americans have some sort of eating disorder. It affects people of all ages, sizes, and race, and can be heritable. Every 62 minutes someone dies from a result of an eating disorder, making it the highest death rate among mental illnesses. People may display a combination of symptoms, or only one

Eating disorders affect millions of Americans. Knowing and spotting the symptoms and signs can help you seek help before it worsens.
Eating disorders affect millions of Americans. Knowing and spotting the symptoms and signs can help you seek help before it worsens.

symptom, while some people may not show any signs at all. Find out the warning signs and symptoms of an eating disorder so you can get the proper help for yourself or a loved one before it worsens, possibly leading to death.

Anyone can develop an eating disorder, including children. Kids are 7-12 times more likely to develop an eating disorder if a parent, sibling, or relative has an eating disorder. Other stressors such as bullying, and chronic illnesses make people more at risk. Eating disorders not only make a person deficient nutritionally, but it can bring on depression and anxiety. Sometimes an eating disorder can disguise itself as other things. So what are the signs of an eating disorder?

Signs of Eating Disorder

The earlier you detect the signs, then the higher your chance is of treating the disorder. Signs to look for are:

Physical Signs

  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Not sleeping well
  • Low energy
  • Feeling cold all the time, even when it is warm out
  • Stomach cramps (constipation, acid reflux, etc.)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dry skin
  • Dental issues such as erosion, cavities and tooth sensitivity
  • Weakness of muscles
  • Disturbance or loss of menstrual cycle in women
  • Decreased libido in men
  • Wounds take longer to heal

Psychological/behavioral Signs

  • Expressing excessive body dissatisfaction
  • Dressing in layers or baggy clothes to hide weight loss
  • Preoccupied with eating food, weight, calories, and dieting

    One of the signs of an eating disorder is the constant need to exercise.
    One of the signs of an eating disorder is the constant need to exercise.
  • Feeling irritable around meal time, or denies feeling hungry
  • Using food for comfort
  • Using food as a punishment
  • Vomiting frequently
  • Using laxatives, enemea, diuretics, and appetite suppressants
  • Compulsive need to exercise
  • Comments a lot about feeling fat
  • Binge eating
  • Eating in private
  • A need for control
  • Obsessive rituals with food such as eating slow, and cutting food into small pieces

While a lot of these signs may seem normal, it is something to consider if you or someone you know exhibits one or more of the mentioned signs. If so, seek medical and professional help for yourself or a loved one. If you have an instinctive “gut” feeling that someone might have an eating disorder, then chances are you are probably right. Follow your instincts and seek help. The quicker you recognize the signs of an eating disorder, the more success you have of treating it.

The Myths of Childhood Mental Health Illnesses

Children and adolescents experience mental health issues the same way adults do. The faster it is recognized, then the faster the treatment for the children, which will help them in the long run. Children’s mental illness is more common than most people think. One in five adolescents aged 13-18 have a serious mental illness. If it goes untreated, it can disrupt the kid’s home life, and ability to function in school and the community. Parents and teachers are usually the first ones to realize if there is a mental health issue with a child. It can be hard for a parent to accept that their child may have a mental health issue. There are signs to look for in a child so you can get them the appropriate help needed. And because mental illness and disorder is such a stigma,  myths were created about them. Find out the signs and facts.

One of the symptoms to look out for in mental illness is depression.
One of the symptoms to look out for in mental illness is depression. Aggression and anxiety may accompany depression.

Signs Of Mental Illness

Observing your child’s behavior is key to getting them the appropriate help. It is normal for kids to throw temper tantrums and be moody, because they are learning boundaries and the world around them. But a mental illness goes beyond the typical tantrums. Some signs that may require you to seek out professional help are:

  • Poor grades in school
  • Anxious
  • Hyperactivity
  • Persistent disobedience
  • Decline in school performance
  • Temper tantrums more than normal
  • Depressed or extra irritable
  • Aggressive

Myths & Facts

It is important to debunk mental health myths so that parents can get a better understanding of mental health. With the correct information, children can get effective treatment.

Myth: Bad parenting causes mental health disorders.

Fact: A kid’s home environment and relationship with their family is detrimental to their life and development. However, it does not cause a mental health disorder. Depression, autism, learning disorders, and anxiety is biological. It is not a parent’s fault.

 

Myth: Children need medication to take care of the issue.

Fact: Although medication is helpful, it takes more than that for a treatment plan. Attention, therapy sessions, and providing children with the necessary tools to cope and handle with stress and other factors is also important.

 

Myth: A mental health illness in a kid means they will struggle and not succeed.

Fact: Mental illness does not indicate a child’s future success and happiness. As long as the illness is caught early and treated so they can learn to manage it, then the child’s future is limitless.

 

Myth: Therapy is a waste of time.

Fact: This is the furthest thing from the truth. Therapy is very effective for a child to understand what is going on with them, how to cope with it, and how to manage their illness. There are different forms of therapy than just the talking to a therapist method. Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on changing the feelings and thoughts associated with their illness. Doing this kind of therapy can change the kids outlook and symptoms related to their mental illness.

 

Myth: A child can just outgrow their mental illness.

Fact: If you put off seeking help for a child that needs it for their mental health issues, the harder it is to treat them as they grow older. A kid’s brain is more responsive to treatment rather than waiting until they become an adult.

One in 5 kids have a mental health ilness. Make sure to pay attention, listen, and get them the help they need.
One in 5 kids have a mental health ilness. Make sure to pay attention, listen, and get them the help they need.

Conditions and symptoms may worsen as the child gets older.

It is very important that a parent accepts that their kid may have a mental illness and be open-minded towards it. Children need the assurance that everything will be okay from their parents. Check in with your kid everyday when you can. Observe your child’s behavior and encourage them to talk about their day and their emotions. It is important to acknowledge a child’s emotions and listen to them when they talk. Talk about what is going on and help them understand what is going on with them. Early diagnosis and treatment can help a child greatly. It will help them reach their full potential.

Depression in Teens Is On The Rise

Trying to fit in and find yourself during your teenage years is tough. There are constant changes in friends, clothing style, likes, and dislikes. On top of the changes teens experience, they have to keep up with school work, and after school activities. There is a lot of pressure for them with unrealistic academic, social and family expectations, which brings on emotional highs and lows. One of the lows they can experience is depression. Depression has been on the rise for teens as years go by, and they feel like they go through these tough years by themselves. We all remember what it was like being a teenager, feeling alone and like our parents do not understand us. Take the time to talk to your kids, notice the signs, and get help when needed.

Teens entering the hospital for depression and suicide has been on the rise.
Teens entering the hospital for depression and suicide has been on the rise. It is important to notice the signs before it is too late.

Symptoms

One in five teens will experience depression. Statistics show the number of teens experiencing depression has climbed by over 40% over the past couple of years. Of those numbers, nearly half of them were in the hospital for suicide attempts or thoughts. It is important for parents to identify if their kid is experiencing depression, because if it is left unnoticed, it can be harmful, and even deadly. Symptoms can include:

  • Irritability
  • Social withdrawal
  • Anger or agitation
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • No motivation
  • Guilt or worthlessness
  • Poor school performance
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Poems or writing about suicide

In order to avoid the feelings of depression, a lot of teens may experiment with drugs or alcohol. Some may even use sex as an escape of their feelings. These are temporary fixes, and can lead to self-destruction. These behaviors will lead to ruined relationships with friends, and family, which will worsen their depression. The more serious the depression gets, the worse the outcome, including suicide. Some teenagers may feel like the only way to escape these feelings is by ending their lives. Some may seek help to avoid these feelings, while some kids keep a happy appearance but struggle internally.

How To Help

If your kids are acting different, take the time to talk to them and find out what is bothering them. There are different approaches to take to provide support and help.

  • Pay attention- Ask questions and notice the signs of depression.
  • Listen- Take the time to listen to the teen’s problems, talking about their feelings. Do not lecture them, just listen, and offer help.
  • Exercise- Exercising promotes mental health. It releases hormones that make you feel good. Suggest going out together and get active.
  • One on One Time- Talking with your child helps to reconnect with them. Make them a priority.
Group therapy is one way to treat teen depression. It offers a sense of understanding and belonging.
Group therapy is one way to treat teen depression. It offers a sense of understanding and belonging.

Treatment

If things do not improve, there are ways to treat depression:

  • Group therapy- Talking about what is going on internally with other people who feel the same builds a sense of belonging. They understand the struggle and create support for each other to help get through it.
  • Psychotherapy- Talking with a therapist or counselor will help with limited cases of depression.
  • Medication- Doctors may prescribe antidepressants, which are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. It is very important to make sure this is necessary by a psychiatrist, because of the risk these medications come with. The FDA issued a warning of kids and teens taking these because of increased risks of suicidal thoughts.

Anxiety accompanies depression, and with kids on their phones more than ever, anxiety has increased in teens. Some of these anxious feelings will increase a person’s feelings of despair and hopelessness. Depression is on the rise for teens with all the expectations they feel they must achieve. Between trying to excel in school, be accepted socially, and make their parents proud, it can become overwhelming. Not to mention the issues they may be going through in all of these areas. Talk to your kids, and notice the signs because a lot more kids are experiencing depression more than ever. Reach out, you may be saving a life.

Symptoms of Mental Illness in Seniors

With age comes some onset mental health issues. Depression and mood disorders are widespread amongst older adults. Most of the time it goes undiagnosed and untreated, which only worsens the conditions. Of course the person going through it is often unaware of the mental illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, it is estimated that about 20% of adults 65 and older have one or more mental health conditions. There are some symptoms and risk factors to look out for and recognize when help is needed.

Risk Factors

One of the risk factors that can trigger mental illness, is alcohol abuse.
One of the risk factors that can trigger mental illness, is alcohol abuse.

One of the problems that make it hard to diagnose mental health issues, is the fact that seniors will complain about physical problems than psychiatric ones. There are some risk factors that can trigger mental illnesses.

  • Alcohol or substance abuse
  • Chronic pain or disease
  • Physical disabilities
  • Grief or the loss of partner
  • Loneliness/Social Isolation
  • Medication interactions
  • Malnutrition or poor diet
  • Change of environment or major changes
  • Dementia-causing illness

Symptoms of Mental Illness

Sometimes we become forgetful as we get older, but once it begins to occur more often, it is a sign something is wrong. The most common mental illnesses a senior will experience is bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, depression,

Social withdrawl is one of the symptoms of a mental illness.
Social withdrawl is one of the symptoms of a mental illness.

and eating disorders. There are some simple symptoms that can be a warning sign to a mental health issue. Signs to look for are:

  • Changes in appetite, and weight
  • Changes in appearance, including maintenance of home.
  • Short-term memory issues, or memory loss.
  • Change in mood, feeling depressed for longer than a week.
  • Stressed or worried feelings.
  • Trouble managing finances, or handling tasks with numbers.
  • Increased aggression, aggressive behavior.
  • Physical issues without explanation such as headaches, constipation, aches, etc.
  • Loss of energy, or sleep problems.
  • Suicidal thoughts, thoughts of helplessness, or worthlessness.
  • Losing interest in things you enjoy
  • Social withdrawal

When a mental illness is discovered in a senior early on, it makes the situation better, more treatable. It is important to talk to your doctor with any of these issues you are experiencing. The more proactive you are, the faster it is to treat and prevent further issues. The worst thing you or anyone can do is brush it off. Do not let something like this slide, we are talking about your health. You are the key to living a healthier life, physically and mentally. So if there is a concern, or you begin to notice changes in your mental state, don’t hesitate to seek help. Talk to a loved one, or your family doctor.