Only 4 percent of Americans
know about mental health parity
Even though 27 percent of Americans have received treatment
or therapy from a mental health professional, few people know
that health insurers are required to provide coverage for mental
health, behavioral health and substance-use disorders that is
comparable to coverage for physical health, according to a new
The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act was
passed in 2008, yet only 4 percent of Americans say they are
aware of the law, according to the survey, which was conducted
online between March 7 and 24 among more than 1,000 adult
Americans by Harris Poll.
Despite increased national attention on mental health and
access to services, in particular with the ongoing National
Dialogue on Mental Health led by the White House, awareness
of the law has not increased since APA last surveyed on this
issue in 2010.
“More access to mental health care is the rallying cry, but
the simple fact is many people may already have coverage and
not know it or not understand how to use it,” says Katherine C.
Nordal, PhD, APA’s executive director for professional practice.
While the APA survey found that 61 percent of adults
reported that they have adequate mental health coverage, many
reported details of their insurance coverage that are at odds
with provisions of the parity law:
• 29 percent of Americans said their insurance has different
co-pays or other limits for mental health care.
• 24 percent said they aren’t sure if their insurance offers the
same coverage for mental and physical health.
• 56 percent said that their current health insurance provides
coverage to see a psychologist or other mental health professional.
When asked why they or a family member would not seek
treatment, concern about the cost of treatment was the most
frequently cited reason, with 22 percent saying that cost was
a barrier to seeking treatment. When asked what information
they would need before being treated by a psychologist or
mental health professional, 75 percent said they would need
to know if they take insurance, whereas 68 percent said they
would need to know if they are comfortable with their provider.
The full methodology of the survey is available at http://
APA has developed resources, including a
consumer guide and an informative video, to
help educate the public about their mental health
coverage, available at http://on.apa.org/parity-law.
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