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Do Insurance Companies Understand Mental Health Needs?

Ripley O., Alachua County

I’m 23 years old and I come from a middle class family. I’m in school right now and I have a part-time job. I go to the Equal Access Clinic for regularly scheduled STI testing, but I’m insured under my parents’ plan. Although I’ve had insurance my whole life, I’m getting older and eventually, I’m going to have to get off of their plan and get insurance on my own. I’m a little apprehensive about it because it seems like the process is a pain to handle. I also don’t know what my employment situation is going to look like in the next couple of years because I’m trying to get into graduate school and graduate students don’t tend to get paid a lot. But we’ll see how that goes.

I haven’t really had a ton of issues in my life accessing health care, but I did recently experience the pain of how expensive it can be. I was looking into getting a mouth guard because I grind my teeth and they’ve been cracking as a result. However, the mouth guard I was being offered was really expensive. Even going through insurance, the mouth guard was still at a solid $300. So I just went to Walmart and bought an athletic mouth guard instead. Unfortunately, it ended up being bad quality. I generally have trouble sleeping– I’m a pretty bad insomniac– and the mouth guard I bought made it really hard to sleep. It was big and unwieldy because it’s made for sports. I couldn’t really sleep with it on, so I’ve sort of just ignored the issue.

I guess I’m pretty young and I don’t deal with too many physical stressors, so I don’t have to rely heavily on health insurance. Still, I’ve had to deal with the issue of high copays on certain things. I’ve also had to navigate paying for certain services out of pocket to avoid messing with my insurance premium, specifically when it comes to my therapy and psychiatry services. I’ve been going to therapists and psychiatrists for a couple of years now. I found my therapist after doing my own personal research, while I found the psychiatrist I’m currently going to through UF. For pretty much the whole span of time I’ve been engaging in those services, my dad has asked that I pay out of pocket instead of paying through our insurance because he’s afraid of messing up our plan’s premium. If the psychiatry and therapy services show up on the insurance records, they can apparently adjust the rate at which we’re charged. So having to pay out of pocket for these services due to not wanting to get the insurance company mad at us is one of the main issues I’ve dealt with.

The idea that an insurance company would raise your premiums just because you access mental health services is institutionalized ableism. It comes from a lack of understanding of what psychiatric and therapy services are, what they do for people, and the degree to which they are necessary. Insurance companies want to make sure they are not paying for anything medical as much as possible, so it makes perfect sense to me that they would be looking for any possible excuse to raise premiums. If there’s the slightest possible excuse that they could find for why I’m a higher risk to insure, then of course they’re going to find that excuse. If that excuse means banking on our society’s general lack of understanding about the nature of mental health services, then yeah, of course they’re going to do that.


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