Mental Health Coverage
With depression and other mental illnesses on the rise, mental health insurance is quickly becoming a hard-fought issue. Several states (including Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia, as of 2003) have passed laws which maintain that insurers must offer some mental health coverage, though specific insurers may offer more than what is minimally required. There are also several states that have passed laws regulating insurance parity, which means that mental health coverage must be as strong as physical health coverage. A national bill for mental health parity is in the works, with hopes to regulate all insurance providers and lessen the financial burden of the patient and their family.
What to Look For in Mental Health Coverage
Many plans until now have placed limits on the amount of visits, the amount of the deductible, and may have also had a lifetime spending cap in place, which would severely limit the amount of care a patient could receive. If you have been diagnosed with a mental health condition and are looking for mental health coverage, it is a good idea for you to first look up your state laws to determine what your rights are. Once informed, begin shopping around for the plan that provides the best coverage available that is best suited to your needs. If you already have health insurance, also check to see what kind of coverage your plan provides, if any. In many cases, as stated, the coverage has a higher deductible and higher co-payments than physical health insurance. If this is the case, there may be other options available to you, including an MSA or an FSA.
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Medical Savings Accounts
An MSA, or medical savings account, is an option available to those who work for an employer with 50 or less employees or those who are self-employed as long as they have a high-deductible insurance plan. Medical savings accounts can be used along with your health insurance as long as the deductible is high and is your only insurance plan. The deductible must be $1,600 or more annually per individual, and $3,200 or more annually per family. All your medical costs can be paid from the MSA before reaching your deductible, except for premiums, unless you are between jobs and without income. Any money put into the MSA are tax-exempt and you get to keep any money that you don‘t spend. Money in the MSA can be also be withdrawn for non-medical expenses, but is subject to a 15 percent tax. An FSA, or Flexible Spending Account, is like a medical savings account, but these don’t have to be used with high-deductible insurance plans. Anyone whose employer offers these plans are eligible to have an FSA. However, any money not spent on medical expenses is lost to you once in the account, and you cannot withdraw any money for non-medical expenses.
Mental health is an issue that we all must face. If not for ourselves, then for our loved ones. As more and more people are diagnosed with mental illness, so will the need for mental health coverage increase. Be sure to stay informed of the changes in both laws and insurance company policies—this will in turn ensure that you are able to have the best coverage available to you.