Too Expensive For Care

Over a decade ago, the United States Congress passed the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. The act, passed by the United States Congress over a decade ago, requires insurers to cover mental illnesses fairly and as they would normally treat a physical illness in the body. Its primary intention is to equalize the treatment of mental illnesses, addiction, and physical illnesses altogether. However, earlier this year, the state of North Carolina received a failing grade in complying with the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. This recent failing grade of the Tar Heel State shows how much work still needs to be done. For instance, drug rehabilitation programs in the state cost over $20,000 dollars, which many patients aren’t able to pay out-of-pocket. The bigger problem is that most rehabilitation agencies often don’t allow the reimbursement of this amount from the patient’s insurance; instead, they require the patient to pay the initial cost from his/her own pockets. How many average Americans have $20,000 dollars to spend in their savings account? The answer is not many people. In fact, average 35-year-olds in the United States have less than $5,000 dollars in their savings accounts. To put it simply, mental illness treatments are often too expensive for people to access and receive.

The solution?

Federal grants for mental health aid. With that, mental health should be a priority in every state in the United States and be covered in a person’s healthcare insurance because it affects a majority of the American population, will help diminish the mental illness stigma, and paves way for more conversations about caring beyond one’s physical health.

Mental Health Stigma

Why exactly should one care about mental health?

The right question should really be: Why aren’t people caring enough about mental health?

Mental health affects an individual’s emotional state, psychological well-being, and how they think and interact with the world around them. A healthy state of mental health is critical to being an effective member of society and being able to function in the world the way one would want to. However, mental health faces a big enemy in the form of stigma.

When someone discriminates against a person with a mental illness, they are contributing to the mental health stigma rampant in all aspects of society. As a result, people with mental illnesses are often treated differently, are disdained, or are excluded from normal functions of their respective communities. In some cases, they become victims of assault, bullying, and other types of violence by close-minded individuals.

The simplest way to mitigate the mental illness stigma ever-present in the country is by openly talking about mental illnesses. If, as compassionate individuals, people talked about mental illnesses, this can help normalize mental illnesses like any other disease and can encourage people to seek treatment. And, if such treatment options are covered in the individual’s healthcare insurance, they can easily be treated without the worry of experiencing prejudice and the large costs it comes with. Not only will this help citizens in coming back as productive members of society, but it also allows them to do so with relative ease if people with mental illnesses are understood rather than scorned.

The Conflict

When the Mental Health Parity Act of 2008 was passed, insurers and Medicare providers were required by law to cover illnesses of the brain and treat various kinds of mental illnesses like any other illness. However, finding and funding mental health treatment is still troublesome as some insurance plans only cover a portion of the hefty bill. This means that people with mental illnesses and their loved ones are often given the burden of coming up with tens of thousands of dollars for the purpose of paying for treatment. This applies to a variety of mental disorders, where families are often left financially crippled after treatment.

In a country where mental illnesses ranging from anxiety to schizophrenia remain widely ignored, this is slowly deviating away from an insurance issue to a human rights one. When the needs of such citizens are not met and they are deprived of leading normal lives, this whole issue starts affecting all aspects of society from families who are left with an enormous debt to people who don’t receive treatment.

It’s time to prioritize mental health and enact laws protecting the rights of individuals suffering from mental conditions.

Why Take Action?

A recent study by the National Alliance on Mental Illness found that one out of five Americans or almost 44 million Americans suffer from some kind of mental condition. Meanwhile, one out of 25 Americans suffers from one that interferes from normal day-to-day activities.

With these high populations of people with mental illnesses, one would think that the way society treats mental health would be considered a major issue. Yet only 41% of these people have received some kind of treatment to alleviate their symptoms. The problem with this percentage is how the rest of the 59% of people are left untreated and how it is very likely that those who receive treatment had to put in their own savings and money just to receive some form of treatment.

While the stigma contributes to this low percentage, the lack of resources from insurers also contributes to this problem. If financial aid and grants are available to a majority of the population, it can definitely help solve the mental health crisis present in the country. It can also help many individuals obtain the necessary treatment they need without consequences of personal debt or financial burden.

A Solution

One of the things that possesses a great amount of power in a democratic country is the ability of its citizens to vote. If citizens advocate for more laws protecting the rights of people with mental illnesses and vote for such grants and financial aid to help treat mental conditions, they can alleviate this crisis. Voting for a law requiring all Medicare providers to provide for the needs of people with mental illnesses or full coverage of mental illness treatment is a definite solution to the problem. Additionally, special mental health programs in schools and colleges can educate students about the realities of mental health. These programs can also provide aid to students and give them access to people they can talk to about any recurring issues associated with their mental state. In the workplace, corporations and companies can also assign counselors who their workers could talk to whenever needed.  

One can mitigate the stigma by being generally aware of the ramifications of various mental illnesses. If people try to understand and be compassionate, rather than judge and punish those with mental conditions, they can help reduce the harsh stigma they already suffer from society. Even a simple: “how are you really?” can make a significant change in the way society sees mental health.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and/or student and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of United 4 Social Change Inc., its board members, or officers.
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