Why Don't We Have Mental Health Parity?

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With guest host Jane Clayson.

Insurance companies are required by law to cover mental health the same as physical health. So, why don’t they?

The slow-going struggle for mental health parity (Getty Images)
The slow-going struggle for mental health parity (Getty Images)

The law says insurance companies must pay for mental health benefits same as they do everything else. Addiction as much as diabetes. Depression as much as cancer. Bipolar as much as bypass. But around the country, consumers are taking their insurance companies to court saying they’re cutting corners and refusing to pay up. The insurance companies say mental health is complicated, and keeping costs down is part of their job. What does this mean for patients? Up next On Point:  The problem of parity in health insurance.
-Jane Clayson


Jenny Gold, correspondent at Kaiser Health News (@JennyAGold). Read Gold's ongoing reporting on mental health parity and discrimination here.

Meiram Bendat, attorney and founder of Psych-Appeal, a law firm representing consumers in mental health complaints against health insurance companies.

Devon Herrick, health economist and senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis.

From the Reading List

Kaiser Health News: Achieving Mental Health Parity: Slow Going Even In ‘Pace Car’ State — "California has taken perhaps the most proactive stance in the nation in enforcing laws to ensure people with mental illnesses have fair and timely access to care. But even in this state, it’s proving difficult to ensure mental patients truly have equal access to treatment. Parity laws, including a sweeping measure passed by the federal government in 2008 and an older California law, require insurers to provide mental health and substance abuse benefits on par with the coverage they offer for other medical care."

NPR: When it comes to insurance, mental health parity in name only? — "Insurance companies, in order to keep down costs, they will do things called "medical necessity" review. Basically, they look at someone's care and ask is it really medically necessary. And advocates say they're applying those sorts of cost-control techniques way more stringently on the mental health side and the substance abuse side than they are on the physical health side. So people are still having trouble getting their care covered."

WBUR's Commonhealth: Mental health parity: if not now, when? — "The latest policy brief published in the journal Health Affairs, documents the convoluted history of mental health parity, the idea that mental health care and treatment be comparable with all other types of “physical” medical care (and why make the distinction, anyway)?"

This program aired on August 27, 2015.


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