Limit 20 therapy sessions per person per year. This is the speech I received when I requested individualized counseling sessions last winter while in the grip of a crippling depression. My insurance company was not alone in its refusal to cover more than a predetermined number of visits over a specified period of time. I considered people far worse off than I was with a sense of empathetic disbelief. Bipolar disorder? Paranoid schizophrenia? Delusional disorder? Phobias that pushed people away from romantic relationships, kept them fleeing from job opportunities, and encouraged them to shy away from challenges. Paralyzing fears. Racing thoughts. God forbid people suffering from serious mental ailments such as these schedule a 21st visit with their psychologist! Thus was the case up until now.
Recent medical news tells us that mental health coverage is growing alongside existing medical insurance coverage. “Under the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Treatment Act which took effect this year, the mental health and substance abuse benefits that a health plan provides have to be just as generous as its coverage for medical and surgical treatments. The law does away with different co-payments, deductibles and visit restrictions,” says an article in MSNBC News. This is great news to anyone who has tried to maintain a regular therapy schedule and is pummeled with roadblocks in the form of insurance restrictions.
If a person has a broken knee that shows up on a radiologist’s X-ray, they will certainly receive covered follow-up appointments — inclusive of physical therapy sessions, medication management, and whatever else the patient’s heart desires. The patient’s X-ray is proof positive of physical malady. Take the clinically depressive teen, however, and then the world suddenly lacks evidence. Put the teen’s body through an MRI. The results come up clean. Perhaps their brain chemistry is a bit atypical, but overall their are no significant tumors or broken bones setting off the alarm system or alerting the hospital staff to send specialists running in to devote special attention to the patient. Unfortunately it’s the age old testament at play – physical ailment versus mental ailment. One you can see and prove; one you can’t see, and thus proving its existence is tricky and easier to contest. Insurance companies prefer to pay as little as possible on behalf of their patients. Thankfully entities that speak up for mental health patients have been voicing their opinions with greater emphasis lately, and their voices have made an impact. New laws require insurance companies to treat mental health patients with the same respect and dignity as their patients who come through the medical field for broken arms and heart attacks.
I’m personally relieved to hear this news. I feel that justice should have been served a long time ago. The alienation the system generated on behalf of mental illness patients only exacerbated patients’ existing problems. To limit therapy sessions is to imply that no more than X number per year is clinically necessary — anything beyond that is a luxury. Thus, those who seek more are left feeling a sense of guilt, trudging around as if they are an additional burden to their families. What an unjust weight to bear. Clinically depressed patients dodging the black cloud that lies over their heads do not need an erroneous source of guilt, shame, and embarrassment — especially stemming from penny-pinching insurance firms.