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Financial Barriers to Mental Health Treatment

Have you ever avoided visiting the doctor’s office because you worried about not being able to afford the bill? You are not alone.

Financial barriers prevent millions of people annually in the United States from receiving the mental health care they need. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, 20 percent of Americans live with mental health conditions and more than half of those people do not receive mental health care.

Mental health care is a necessity that all individuals deserve. So what are the biggest financial barriers to mental health treatment and how can you overcome those barriers to get the help you need?

Financial Barriers to Mental Health Care

The top two financial barriers that prevent people from receiving mental health treatment are high costs and limited access to insurance with sufficient coverage.

What Are the Costs Associated With Mental Health Treatment?

The costs of mental health care in the US surpass more than $225 billion each year. This number includes the costs of psychiatric stays in treatment centers, therapy, medications, and rehab facilities. On top of the $225 billion spent on direct mental health care, it’s estimated that depression also accounts for a loss of $44 billion each year from decreased workforce productivity. Those are just the costs that the United States incurs as a whole, but just how expensive is mental health care for individuals?

Most people pay on average $100-$200 per session for mental health therapy. Depending on how many sessions you need, that can quickly add up. If you are someone who has serious depression, the average cost of healthcare is $10,836 annually. With 40 percent of Americans not being able to afford an unexpected cost of even $1,000, how exactly are most Americans going to find the room in their budget for an extra $10,000 to pay for their mental health care each year? The obvious answer should be that insurance companies will cover the costs, and yet most insurance plans still aren’t covering enough when it comes to mental health care.

Insufficient Insurance Coverage

While 90 percent of general health practitioners accept commercial health insurance, only about 55 percent of mental health psychiatrists accept health insurance. That means that many people are stuck paying high out of pocket expenses due to working with psychiatrists who are out of network for them.

Even when insurance does cover the mental health care provider, there are often high deductibles or copays that still make paying for mental health care daunting for many people.

Overcoming Financial Barriers

After reading all of the information above, hopefully, you are not feeling too hopeless when it comes to paying for mental health care. There are ways to ease the financial burdens and make mental health care more affordable.

1. Search for in-network providers

Since the Affordable Care Act enactment, all Medicaid plans are required to cover mental health. Following suit of the Affordable Care Act, most employers also have opted to include mental health care coverage. To find out if you have mental health care coverage and search for psychiatrists that are in-network for you, contact your insurance company.

Here are some good questions to ask your insurance provider about your coverage:

  • What is my copay or deductible?
  • Will I need a doctor’s referral to see a psychiatrist?
  • Do I need preapproval from my insurance provider for mental health care?
  • Are out-of-network psychiatrists covered at all?
  • What psychiatrists near me are in my network?
  • Are telehealth appointments covered?
  • Are there any limitations on how many psychiatrist visits are covered?
  • Are there certain types of mental health care providers or diagnoses that are covered? If so, which ones are not covered?
2. Ask the mental health care provider about payment options

If your insurance does not cover everything, or you do not have insurance, it will be important to ask your mental health care provider about their payment options. Some providers offer flexible payment plans or sliding scales.

Flexible payment plans will allow you to make small monthly payments that you can afford to pay over a period of time, rather than having to pay for everything upfront. Sliding scales are when doctors offer payment options based on factors like income and how much you can afford to pay. If they offer sliding scale options just be prepared with financial statements to show how much income you make and have a number in mind ahead of time for what payment amount is feasible for you.

3. Look into community or government-funded health centers

Depending on where you live, there might be either community or government-funded mental health centers that make affordable healthcare more accessible. These health centers are oftentimes free for eligible individuals or have low-cost fees. To search for these health centers, you can simply Google city and county health centers near you.

If there is not enough information online to determine cost and accessibility, call the facility you are interested in and ask them what the criteria for accessing their mental health services are.

Accessibility to Mental Health Care Is Important

While there are still a lot of barriers to people receiving the mental health care they need, our country is starting to make a transition to make mental health care more accessible for all. Especially since the start of the pandemic, we have seen mental health care becoming increasingly more accessible. The number of mental health care providers who accept a wide range of insurance plans is growing. The online platform for receiving mental health care is also growing. More and more people are gaining access to online therapists and telehealth appointments each year. Even certain pharmacies, like select CVS locations, are starting to offer mental health services at an affordable price.

There is plenty of room for improvement when it comes to accessing healthcare, but with attitudes shifting to understand the importance of mental health, and people working to end the stigma of receiving mental health care, we are starting to see a cultural shift to make mental health care more accessible to more individuals.

Your mental health is important, and you need to take care of all aspects of your health to thrive and live the best version of your life that you can. Don’t let financial barriers stop you from getting the help you need. Make the important calls to determine what your options are and find a mental health provider who is right for you. To reach out about accessing mental health care services with us at Jackson House, you can give us a call anytime at 888-255-9280.


It's time to feel better

We are here to help and we are in-network with most insurance providers. Call us for a free and confidential consultation.

If you’re a provider and need to send us information on a client, please feel free to fax us at 619-303-7044. If you need help immediately, call our 24-hour crisis line at 1-800-766-4274. If you have a medical emergency, call 911. Jackson House is licensed by the State of California Community Care Licensing Division and certified by the Department of Health Care Services. We are also CARF Accredited. If you have any client or quality of care concerns, please reach out to us at (888) 255-9280. If your concerns need further attention, you can contact the Department of Public Health at 619-278-3700 or the Community Care Licensing Division at 1-844-538-8766.