Former Mass. Mental Health Commissioner Says Private Insurance Fails Kids

BOSTON — In the third story of our week-long series, “Are the Kids All Right?,” we looked at how pediatricians are using a new questionnaire to screen children for mental health problems.

“It doesn’t tell you your child has attention deficit disorder just because you answer ‘yes’ to the question, ‘Is your child easily distracted?’ ” explains pediatrician Greg Hagan, of Cambridge Health Alliance. “But it gives a pediatrician the opportunity to ask a lot more questions, to drill down into the child’s behavior.”

Marylou Sudders (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Marylou Sudders (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Still, Massachusetts often doesn’t have the kinds of services needed to take care of kids who have mental health problems. Part of the reason for that is a shortage of psychologists and psychiatrists.

But many people may be surprised to learn that children on public insurance, such as MassHealth, have better benefits than kids on private plans.

Marylou Sudders, the former commissioner of the state Department of Mental Health, says she would do something drastic if her child had mental health problems: “If I had a child with a serious emotional disorder in the commonwealth of Massachusetts, I would do everything I could to have them on Medicaid rather than on private commercial insurance.”

Sudders even says she’d quit her current job if that resulting drop in her income would qualify her child for public health insurance. Sudders spoke with WBUR’s All Things Considered host Sacha Pfeiffer Wednesday about why she feels so strongly about this issue.

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  • Anonymous

    Gee no surprise here that public health insurance is better then private. The COMPLETELY free massheath insurance is the best around and all you hard working middle class people pay so that the low class people can have better insurance then you, even the illegal immigrants get massheatlh.
    Now I can not imagine why MA is running at a deficit.
    If you have a low income between food stamps, fuel assistance, housing subsides and health insurance, and lets not forget college tuition grants, you can have a middle class or better lifestyle. And you do not even need to work that hard!
    There is something wrong with a system that disproportionally redistributes money in this way.

    • Tuxedocat9

      So true! MassHealth is the BEST insurance to have….and it’s free, to boot (well not free for the working taxpayers). Everyone else is FORCED to PURCHASE health insurance that doesn’t cover anything…so we are essentially paying $ and not getting health CARE. What Governor Patrick fails to note it that there is a HUGE difference between health INSURANCE and ACCESS to health CARE!

  • http://twitter.com/murmur55 murmur55

    Marylou Sudders, the former commissioner of the state Department of Mental Health failed all of the mental health patients in Massachusetts. The system is completely broken in terms of providing effective, efficient and ethical care to individuals. The system supports violent psychiatrists, some of whom have been involved in manslaughter of disabled patients, and not held accountable. Massachusetts is a disgrace.

  • Sotp

    So glad my husband works so hard to pay top dollar for a private plan for my kids when people who sit on their asses all day get it for free thru his hard labor!

  • Murmur

    Why is the article dated Jan 1, 1970?

  • mitch

    i live this nightmare everyday.  i work hard, pay taxes, and have a mentally ill child.  i have been denied services by riverside prevention because i have private insurance.  i have been told to call the police if my child is out of control. children on mass health are able to get full services, someone to help them in the home (you don’t have to call the police if your child is out of control, they send a licensed social worker to your home, not the police who are not trained to deal with mental health issues).  the system is broken and i have no energy to fight it .  i’m so tired of fighting for someone to help my family, then to fall flat on our faces.  DMH has tried, knowing that there are services to help the people who don’t work with my taxes paying  for it and i can’t get these services for my own family is so sad. They said we can apply for mass health but would have to pay monthly, i pay 900 hundred dollars a month for private issuance.  How is this right??

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