Individual Mental Health Insurance: What Are My Options?

Around 40 million American adults suffer from some kind of anxiety disorder. While there are effective therapies and medications that make it possible for anxiety sufferers to lead normal, productive lives, these treatments come at a cost. An hour of therapy with a professional mental health counselor can cost anywhere from $90 to more than $200, and an assessment and treatment by a psychiatrist is often upwards of $200--not including the cost of any medications that are prescribed. With prices like these, having mental health insurance coverage is almost a necessity.

For people without access to a group insurance policy, such as you might find through an employer, it can be difficult to find an affordable individual policy with good mental health benefits. Policies are not required to cover mental health care, so it is important to look at the detailed list of benefits before you choose a policy. Things to look for are a lack of mental health coverage, high co-pays or deductibles, and a limit to benefits received. (While federal mental health parity legislation requires that group health plans are not more restrictive with mental health coverage than with medical and surgical benefits, this does not apply to individual mental health coverage.)

While the United States is working to do away with exclusions based on pre-existing conditions, that will not happen for several more years, so it is still possible to be denied coverage based on prior medical history. It is also common for insurance companies to charge a higher premium for people with a lengthy treatment history.

In short, it is possible to find an individual mental health insurance policy that meets your needs, but you should not assume that the first policy you find will cover everything. Read the policies carefully to make sure they include mental health benefits, compare premiums and benefits across multiple policies, and be prepared to pay more or have exclusions apply if you have a history of mental health issues.

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