By Consumers for Quality Care, on August 10, 2022
Last month, John Oliver, host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight,tackled mental health care in our country, specifically, how the system is broken and ways in which we unsuccessfully try to fix it.
The need for mental health care has increased dramatically since the COVID-19 pandemic. Oliver cited a Kaiser Family Foundation study from February 2021 which found that 4 in 10 adults in the country reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, as opposed to 1 in 10 adults a year before. Making matters worse, recent CQC polling found that nearly 6-in-10 voters (57 percent) said it’s difficult to find mental health providers that are affordable or covered by insurance.
During the segment, Oliver highlighted provider shortage areas (including a lack of providers of color), inadequate funding for the system, and consumer stories. In one example, a young teen was in the ER for 27 days when trying to seek mental health treatment, to no avail, with his mother saying, “You come in for help, and you’re desperate for it, and you can’t get it.” In another example, a mother’s son was denied mental health care by her insurer, which led the family to incur $88,000 in out-of-pocket expenses.
The segment also addresses the lack of mental health parity found across most insurance plans, despite federal law requiring insurers to cover mental health the same way they would cover anything else. In addition, consumers often have difficulties locating a provider covered by their insurance.
Consumers should not have to struggle to find care or grapple with massive out-of-pocket expenses to access mental health care. CQC urges lawmakers and regulators to enforce laws that require insurance companies to cover mental health expenses so consumers can get the care they need.