Information about Insurance Coverage for Psychological Services: Resources on the Mental Health Parity Law

An overwhelming majority of Americans remain unaware of a law providing equal coverage of mental health benefits by insurance companies, a cause for concern for psychologists. More than 26 percent of American adults have a diagnosable mental health disorder, but only 33 percent of those people are receiving care, according to data from the National Institute of Mental Health. And of that number, one-third is receiving treatment that is considered only "minimally adequate."

In a survey recently conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), nearly 90 percent of Americans said they had not heard about the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, a federal law now in effect for people who have health insurance through a group or employer plan. And a scant seven percent of respondents said they recognized the phrase "mental health parity."

The Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, signed into law by President Bush in 2008 and effective on Jan. 1, 2010, extends equal coverage to all aspects of health insurance plans. It preserves existing state mental health and addiction parity laws while extending protection of behavioral health services to 82 million Americans not previously protected by state laws. The law also requires parity for mental health coverage when provided both in-network and out-of-network.

Among other things, the law equalizes the out-of-pocket cost of mental health treatments to those of physical health coverage. The parity act also removes the cap on the number of outpatient visits allotted per year, as long as no cap exists for physical health-related visits.

Read more about the federal parity law on the Psychology Help Center

Additional parity resources

A summary of the APA survey findings is available online (PDF, 439KB)

January 2011