Mental Health Coverage in Health Insurance Plans

Mental health has become an increasingly important topic in today’s world. With rising awareness and destigmatization, more people are seeking help for mental health issues. However, the cost of mental health care can be a significant barrier. This is where mental health coverage in health insurance plans comes into play. In this blog, we’ll delve into the importance of mental health coverage, backed by statistics, and explore what different health insurance plans offer, including information on leading health insurance companies.

Why Mental Health Coverage is Essential

Mental health issues are more common than you might think. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness. That’s about 51.5 million people as of 2019. Despite the prevalence, many people do not receive the necessary treatment due to the high costs associated with mental health care.

The Financial Impact

The financial burden of mental health care is substantial. For example, the average cost of a 45-minute psychotherapy session in the United States ranges from $100 to $200. For someone who needs weekly sessions, this can quickly add up to over $10,000 per year. Without insurance, these costs are often unaffordable.

The Human Impact

Beyond financials, untreated mental health issues can lead to severe consequences. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that depression alone causes an estimated 200 million lost workdays each year, costing employers up to $44 billion annually. Effective mental health treatment can significantly reduce these losses by improving employee productivity and overall well-being.

Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA)

To address the disparity in mental health coverage, the U.S. government enacted the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) in 2008. This law requires that mental health and substance use disorder benefits be no more restrictive than medical and surgical benefits. Essentially, it ensures that mental health care is treated equally in terms of coverage.

What Health Insurance Plans Offer

Employer-Sponsored Health Plans

Employer-sponsored health plans are the most common type of insurance in the U.S., covering about 49% of the population. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), 82% of these plans offer mental health coverage. However, the extent of coverage can vary significantly between plans.

Marketplace Plans

Health insurance marketplace plans, created under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), must cover mental health and substance use disorder services as one of the ten essential health benefits. This includes behavioral health treatment, counseling, and psychotherapy. The ACA has significantly improved access to mental health services, particularly for those who were previously uninsured.


Medicaid is a crucial source of mental health coverage for low-income individuals. As of 2021, Medicaid covered mental health services for about 74 million Americans. This includes inpatient and outpatient mental health services, therapy, medication management, and more.


Medicare, the federal health insurance program for people aged 65 and older and some younger people with disabilities, also includes mental health coverage. This includes both inpatient and outpatient mental health services. In 2019, Medicare spent approximately $30 billion on mental health care.

Top Health Insurance Companies and Their Mental Health Coverage

1. Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS)

Website: BCBS is one of the largest health insurance providers in the United States, offering comprehensive mental health coverage. Their plans include access to a wide network of mental health professionals and cover services such as therapy, counseling, and psychiatric care.

2. UnitedHealthcare

Website: UnitedHealthcare offers extensive mental health coverage, including telehealth services for mental health consultations. They provide access to a large network of therapists, psychiatrists, and counselors.

3. Aetna

Website: Aetna’s mental health coverage includes a variety of services such as inpatient and outpatient care, therapy sessions, and medication management. They also offer resources and support for mental health through their website and member services.

4. Cigna

Website: Cigna provides robust mental health coverage, including access to counseling, therapy, and psychiatric services. They emphasize preventive care and offer various programs to support mental well-being.

5. Humana

Website: Humana offers comprehensive mental health benefits, covering services such as individual and group therapy, inpatient psychiatric care, and medication management. They also provide resources for mental health support and wellness.

Statistics on Mental Health Coverage

  • Access to Care: According to Mental Health America (MHA), 56% of adults with a mental illness do not receive treatment. This highlights the need for better coverage and access to mental health services.
  • Treatment Utilization: The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported that in 2018, only 43.3% of adults with any mental illness received mental health services in the past year.
  • Impact of Insurance: A study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that individuals with insurance coverage for mental health were more likely to receive treatment and had better mental health outcomes compared to those without coverage.

How to Choose a Plan with Good Mental Health Coverage

1. Check the Network

Make sure the insurance plan has a robust network of mental health professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists.

2. Understand the Benefits

Look for plans that cover a wide range of mental health services, including therapy, medication management, and inpatient care if necessary.

3. Consider Costs

Evaluate the plan’s costs, including premiums, deductibles, copays, and coinsurance. Ensure that the out-of-pocket costs are manageable for you.

4. Review the Parity Compliance

Check if the plan complies with the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, ensuring that mental health benefits are on par with medical/surgical benefits.


Mental health coverage in health insurance plans is not just a nice-to-have; it’s a necessity. With nearly one in five adults in the U.S. experiencing mental illness, access to affordable mental health care can make a significant difference in people’s lives. Thanks to laws like the MHPAEA and the ACA, coverage has improved, but there is still a long way to go. By understanding what different plans offer and choosing the right coverage, you can ensure that you or your loved ones have access to the mental health services needed to lead healthier, happier lives.

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