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An Unnecessary Evil

Updated: Aug 24, 2022

Of all of the difficulties I encounter in my role as a small business owner of a local counseling practice, there is nothing that provides me with greater frustration, exasperation, irritability, anger, and general overall despondency than my dealings with insurance companies.

I'm not going to say I "hate" insurance companies, because that's a word I try to use judiciously. But I can say that I really, really, really, really, REALLY don't like insurance companies. Even the ones that I view as being the easiest to work with still cause me problems on a pretty regular basis.

But the one thing that frustrates and angers me more than anything else regarding insurance companies, are how often a client's copayment amount or unmet deductible prohibits them from receiving the mental health treatment they need. While having a $30 copayment a person must pay at each visit can be prohibitive, having a $5000 deductible that has not been met can make paying for necessary mental health services financially impossible.

Over 60% of adults in the U.S. report living "paycheck to paycheck", and unfortunately, with rising inflation, that number is probably going to increase. Financial stress is listed as a frequent cause or contributor to poor mental health. And, financial concerns are listed as the #1 barrier to accessing mental healthcare. So, a person who is struggling with their mental health due at least in part to their financial stress is faced with a very difficult situation. Do they seek out (and pay for) mental health treatment that is necessary or helpful, but they can't afford? Or, do they forgo getting the help that they need in order to not add to their already burdensome financial stress? Either decision comes with potentially significant drawbacks.

The good news is that we have encountered situations where a client's deductible does not apply to mental health treatment. The bad news is that this happens few and far between. Insurance companies need to consider, at the very least, eliminating the deductible requirement from mental healthcare as having to pay for sessions with a therapist out-of-pocket is something very few of us can afford. If things continue in this manner, many people who are financially struggling and emotionally suffering will continue to do both.

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