As Suicides Surge, Insurance Companies Find Ways To Deny Patients Care

Photo courtesy of the Air Force Medical Service / Public Domain

As overdose rates spiked 66 percent from 2008 to 2016, health insurers are making it harder for patients to get care.

The insurance industry is restricting access to mental health treatment through indirect means, in spite of a 2008 act that requires companies to provide comparable coverage for physical and psychological treatments, according to Bloomberg.

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, intended to strengthen coverage for mental illnesses, was a reaction to the country’s rising overdose and suicide deaths, which reached a high of 70,000 and 47,000 respectively in 2017.

The suicide rate in the country spiked 16% from 2008 to 2016, while that of fatal overdoses jumped 66% in the same period, according to Bloomberg.

The legislation, however, has done little to deter insurers, who are finding ways around the law to continue denying claims.

Among the most common practices in the industry are the so-called “ghost directories,” lists that include a large number of clinicians that are no longer taking new patients or are no longer covered by the insurance. Aside from misleading clients and regulators, firms use these lists to prevent new mental health providers from joining their networks.

Firms also routinely ask for a staggering amount of paperwork before approving treatment and pay mental health professionals less than doctors in other specialties.

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