Does your health insurance cover seeing a psychiatrist?
Small empoyers are not required to provide mental health coverage.
Millions of Americans do not have health insurance at all, but even among those who have insurance there is often a gap in mental health coverage. If someone in your family needs to see a psychiatrist, are you covered?
Limited options for the uninsured
For those who lack insurance, some mental health care providers will offer services on a pro bono basis, donating their time as part of their professional code of ethics.
"Most of us care a lot about each other and want to do the right thing," says Dr. Fred Levin, a Chicago-based psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. "Some patients have no resources at all. If I, who know how to treat them, don't do it, that person could die." He says it's much easier for patients to focus on their treatment when they have insurance and don't have to worry so much about cost. "I know this because I've been there," he says. "Analysts were once patients. I know what it's like, and I'm sensitive to it."
Uninsured people may also find assistance through:
- Crisis lines and suicide prevention hot lines
- Hospitals (especially teaching hospitals) and, in a pinch, emergency rooms
- School counselors, college wellness clinics and counseling centers
- General advocacy groups, like the American Association of Retired People (AARP) and professional organizations
- Outreach and mental health advocacy groups, which have extensive resource databases, such as NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) and SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration)
- State and federal government programs, like the Veterans Administration, the Consolidated Health Care Centers Program and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
- Nonprofit organizations
- Medicare and Medicaid assistance programs
Beginning in 2014, most uninsured Americans should be able to get coverage under the 2010 Affordable Care Act .