Should Basic Health Insurance Cover Mental Health?

Health_Healthcare.jpgLast night I decided to hide from the subfreezing temperatures outside by settling down with a warm cup of mint tea and my newly arrived health insurance policy. In a effort to make my task more tolerable, I decided that I would read it through a biopsychosocial lens.

Most noticeable among the stacks of sections upon subsections upon sub-subsections was paragraph “J” under “Covered Benefits.” Notable because this section was supported by the shortest narrative on the entire page, only four words — No benefit is provided. “Obviously this is a mistake,” I pondered, because indeed Mental Health was listed under its rightful “Covered” category, but apparently someone had mistakenly replaced the appropriate supporting narrative with one meant for cosmetic surgery or perhaps hair analysis. I had decided that I would do a good deed and notify the company in the morning so they that could correct this embarrassing mistake before serious damage was done. However, as I read more, the increasing number of mental health-related exclusions sprinkled throughout the policy convinced me that the unconscionable was true–mental health had become the ransom of modern medicine.

“How could they,” I wondered,” cover the emergency room treatment of a rape victim and ignore her post traumatic stress?” Would they really pay for maternity care, but deny coverage for post-partum depression? With regard to psycho-somatic relationships, my insurance company wrote–to paraphrase Shakespeare–“As if this flesh which wall about our life were brass impregnable.” Surely one or two of our brain’s 100 million cells affects our bodies in an insurable manner? Has not neurobiology begun to pull back the curtain on the molecular and biochemical mechanisms of mental illness at least enough to demonstrate “coverable” causality? And so bloggers, I would like to raise the question to you: Should Basic Health Insurance Cover Mental Health?


Tony Brown, BA, EMT

Tony Brown, BA, EMT, graduated cum laude from Harvard University. He served as an EMT in the US Army stationed in Germany.
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