Insurance

How to Choose the Best Insurance Plan for Mental Health Care

Mental health is an important part of your overall well-being, which is why many insurance plans cover therapy and other treatments for mental health conditions. But which insurance is best for mental healthcare? In the United States, one in every five adults has a mental health condition. Many people need therapy at some point in […]

derek lee grow therapy By Derek Lee, VP of Insurance Operations

Updated on Jan 12, 2024

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Mental health is an important part of your overall well-being, which is why many insurance plans cover therapy and other treatments for mental health conditions. But which insurance is best for mental healthcare?

In the United States, one in every five adults has a mental health condition. Many people need therapy at some point in their lives, just as they’d need any other form of medical care.

If you’re shopping around for health insurance, it’s just as important to consider your coverage for mental health services as checking your coverage for GP visits, prescription drugs, and hospital stays. 

Most health insurance plans cover a variety of mental and behavioral health services, including therapy, substance abuse treatment, and more. Let’s look at the best insurance plans for mental health and your options for therapy coverage. 

Does Health Insurance Cover Mental Illness?

Yes, most health insurance companies cover treatment for mental health conditions. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires most health plans to cover essential health benefits, including mental and behavioral health treatments. 

Likewise, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act requires health insurance plans to cover mental health, behavioral health, and substance use disorders similarly to their physical health coverage.  

So there’s no need to look for a separate mental health insurance plan — health insurance companies are mandated to cover mental and behavioral health conditions just as they’d cover physical health conditions.

However, mental health parity laws vary from state to state. This means that insurance plans in one state might cover more mental health treatments than those in another. 

Depending on your plan, you might be able to get coverage for:

Look for your Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) document to understand your insurance benefits. You may have received a physical copy or digital copy when you first enrolled in insurance. If not, you can find a digital version on your insurance provider’s website. The document should have a section on mental health coverage or behavioral health services.  

What Is the Best Insurance for Mental Health?

The good news is that all Affordable Care Act marketplace plans cover mental and behavioral health services. Private insurance plans also have mental health benefits. 

Here are a few examples of insurance companies that cover mental health:

It’s important to note that not all mental health providers take all insurance plans. You’ll have to check which therapists are in your insurance’s network before choosing a therapist.

An easy way too find an in-network therapist is with Grow Therapy. Simply pick your insurance provider and location and we’ll give you a list of therapists who meet your needs. You can then book your session directly through our website.

Find an in-network therapist

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Let’s look at a few popular insurance companies and their mental health coverage.

Aetna 

Aetna offers a wide range of mental health benefits. They may cover individual, group, and family therapy. As with all insurance companies, Aetna’s coverage will depend on your specific plan. 

You can call Aetna or view their website to check the details of your coverage. Make sure you understand the out-of-pocket costs, like copayments or deductibles, which you may need to pay for.

Cigna  

Cigna covers numerous kinds of mental health services, including individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy. They also have online tools and resources for mental health help.

In addition to routine outpatient care (like therapy), Cigna covers structured inpatient treatment programs, partial hospitalization, and inpatient care — which is where you stay overnight in therapy and receive 24-hour treatment.  

You can log onto Cigna’s website to check the details of your coverage. You can also phone them directly.

Oscar  

Oscar health insurance offers numerous mental health benefits, including individual talk therapy, group therapy, and medication management (if needed). These benefits will differ depending on which Oscar plan you’re on.

They also offer some preventative mental health screenings, like depression screening and alcohol counseling, for free in certain circumstances. Oscar might cover virtual therapy sessions and crisis intervention where needed. 

UnitedHealthcare  

UnitedHealthcare covers therapy, but the details of your coverage will depend on your plan. You can use their website or app or call them directly to double-check your coverage.   

To maximize your coverage, you’ll have to visit a therapist in the UnitedHealthcare network. They offer an online directory that allows you to search for in-network therapists, but you can also use the Grow Therapy search tool to find a therapist who takes UnitedHealthcare in your state.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Health Insurance for Mental Illness?

Given that health insurance can be costly and difficult to navigate, you might wonder whether it’s better to pay out-of-pocket for your therapy sessions. Using health insurance to cover mental health services has multiple pros and cons.

Pros:

It’s cheaper. Insurance can reduce the out-of-pocket cost of therapy sessions. If you can find affordable health insurance that offers decent mental health benefits, you can save significantly. 

It might cover more than just therapy. Your insurance might also reduce the cost of psychiatric evaluations, medication management, prescription drugs, and inpatient treatment.

Other bonuses and resources. Some health insurance companies offer additional mental health insurance benefits, like online resources, screenings, hotlines, and more.

It may reduce overall financial stress. Financial strain can take a toll on your mental health. Health insurance can provide peace of mind by reducing the cost of prescription medications, visits with your primary care physician, and emergency care, should you need it.

Cons:

Limited choice of therapists. You usually have to see in-network mental health professionals to maximize your savings. This can make it harder to find a therapist.

Limited coverage. Your plan might only cover some types of therapy. For example, couples counseling is often not covered by insurance. Alternative or experimental mental health services may also not be covered. Some plans cover virtual therapy, while others don’t. 

Diagnostic requirements. Most insurance companies require a formal mental health diagnosis before they cover therapy. This might not always be desirable or necessary for every individual seeking mental health support.

Coverage limitations. Insurance may cover a limited number of therapy sessions per year, which might not meet the needs of people who prefer long-term therapy. 

High deductibles and copayments. Some insurance plans have high deductibles or copayments, which can still pose a financial burden.

Privacy concerns. Using insurance requires the sharing of diagnosis and treatment information with insurance providers; many prefer privacy to keep the details of their mental health issues private.

There are both pros and cons to using healthcare insurance for mental illness coverage. Considering your unique situation before signing up for a plan is important. 

How Do I Pick an Insurance Plan for Mental Health?

Your employer may offer a specific health insurance plan. Or, you may be in a position where you must choose between health insurance companies and plans. 

Either way, choosing a health insurance company can be tricky — here are eight tips:

1) If you have a therapist (or another healthcare provider) you want to continue seeing, ask them which insurance plans they accept and work from there. 

2) Consider Medicaid or Medicare. If you qualify, it can be an affordable health insurance option (and yes, both Medicare and Medicaid offer mental health coverage).

3) Look at the federal or state health insurance marketplace by visiting HealthCare.gov and entering your ZIP code. This allows you to view and compare plans. 

4) Alternatively, you can enroll in a plan through a private exchange or directly from an insurer.  

5) Compare coverage by reading the SBC documents. Take a look at their mental and behavioral health benefits, considering factors like their network size, whether they cover inpatient treatment, and their prescription drug coverage.  

6) Consider the premium you’ll need to pay — but also look at the copayments. If your premium is low, but you’re expected to pay a high copay for each therapy session, a seemingly affordable health insurance plan may cost you more. 

7) Consider more than just therapy. Therapy is an important part of mental healthcare. But your physical health can impact your mental wellness, and vice versa. It’s a good idea to check out their coverage for other medical services.  

8) Check out the network. Therapists and other healthcare professionals choose which insurance plans they take and don’t take. If you’re considering a specific plan, look at the network to see which therapists they’ll cover. 

Shopping for quality, affordable health insurance can be time-consuming and tedious, but it’s important to take time to understand what you’re signing up for so that you can make an informed decision. If you do your homework now, your future self will thank you!

Find a Therapist Who Accepts Your Insurance

Most health insurance companies cover mental health conditions. But how do you find a therapist who takes your insurance and fits your needs? The Grow Therapy search tool makes it easy. You can browse therapists who are contracted with your insurance provider, then book a session directly through our website once you find who you want to see. Most therapists are available within two days.  

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FAQs

  • Because of the Affordable Care Act, your insurance cannot drop you, deny you coverage, or make you pay higher premiums because you have depression. The same goes for other mental health disorders.

  • Yes, you can get life insurance if you have a pre-existing mental health condition. As with any pre-existing condition, though, your history of mental health issues might affect your life insurance premium.

  • Mental health coverage can vary from state to state and plan to plan. However, most insurance companies offer some form of mental health coverage thanks to mental health parity laws. You can also access treatment through Medicaid and Medicare.

  • If you don’t have health insurance and can’t afford to pay for therapy out-of-pocket, there are some affordable alternatives for you. You could try: •Going to a therapist who offers sliding scale fees, meaning your fees will depend on how much you can afford. •Visiting a university clinic if you are a student. •Accessing therapy through an employee assistance program (EAP), if your employer has one •Opting for virtual (online) therapy, which may be more affordable and can help you save on transport costs. •Opting for group therapy, which may be more affordable than individual therapy. •Local NPOs and community mental health centers might offer low-cost or free mental health care services. •Local or online support groups, which are generally free.

  • Yes. Because of mental health parity laws, Medicare’s mental health coverage covers a variety of mental and behavioral health treatments. If you have a Medicare number, you can create a secure online Medicare.gov account and check your coverage.

About the author
derek lee grow therapy Derek Lee, VP of Insurance Operations

Derek Lee is Grow Therapy's Vice President of Insurance Operations, overseeing payor relations and success, credentialing and enrollment, new payor launch, revenue cycle management and billing, and insurance operations data analytics.

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. We recommend speaking with a therapist for personalized information about your mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who can offer support and address any questions or concerns. If you or your child is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should dial 9-1-1 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

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