Who should we blame for flawed mental health care?

In this Dec. 4, 2017, photo, part of the Republican Senate bill "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" is photographed in Washington. Republican tax legislation advancing toward final votes in Congress could undermine “Obamacare” health insurance markets, and add to the financial squeeze on Medicare over time. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick)

Within the controversial discussion of healthcare in America, lies an underrated notion - mental health care. “About 42.5 million American adults” and 20 percent of children in the U.S suffer from mental illness. There seems to be a popular hesitation to seek mental health treatment, despite the prevalence of mental illness. Some blame society’s ideological rejection of mental illness as worthy of professional treatment, which has developed into stigmas about those with mental illness and hinder one’s desire to seek treatment. Others blame mental treatment institution and claim that they do not provide adequate care for a great deal of mental illnesses. However, most blame the government and its failure to provide sufficient health-care plans to those who do not have access to private healthcare. What many seem to overlook is the coverage that health insurance plans actually provide. The problem lies within the American system; the government’s lack of regulation of private healthcare companies and insurance provider’s failure to provide adequate mental health-care coverage.

In today’s capitalist society, it is not surprising that insurance companies ultimately seek profit rather than customer care. With that said, the health-care plans offered will reflect a pursuit of financial reward instead of the health and well-being of consumers. In order to minimize cost and maximize profit, insurance providers tend to prune mental health-care coverage. After the Addiction Equity act, insurance companies included minimal mental health care coverage in their plans, and charged more for other components of mental health-care. “Insurers paid primary care providers 20 percent more for the same types of care than they paid addiction and mental health care specialists, including psychiatrists." In doing so, insurance companies are making mental health-care even less attainable to the public. Today, “one out of five (20.1 percent) adults with a mental illness report they are not able to get the treatment they need."

Government regulation of the mental-health coverage within provider plans is necessary to ensure adequate distribution of care. A large portion of the profits made by insurance companies are spent on the the development of the company and its economic stance. “Private insurers in America spend huge sums of money on advertising and bureaucratic administrative costs that do not improve health. The high profits they earn are not reinvested adequately in the public interest." There is a simple cyclical pattern that hinders accessibility to mental health insurance: insurance companies cut mental-health coverage to decrease costs and increase profits, the increase in profits is used to further expand provider companies, which leads to an increase in clients for the company, which increases consumption of inadequate coverage, and so on. “The truth is we have a system today that works well for the insurance industry. But it doesn't always work well for you." Breaking this cycle is nearly impossible, since insurance companies have monopolized adequate medical-health care, as compared to government health insurance coverage plans. For consumers, there is no alternative to provider coverage plans because uninsured health-care is even less financially attainable. “An estimated 47% of adults are not receiving treatment because of costs."

The federal government’s failure to provide a health-care plan that adequately covers mental health and insufficient regulation of health insurance companies further hinders public access to proper mental health-care. The notion of healthcare as a controversial political issue is unseen in many countries, unlike the United States. The debate over health insurance should not be central to U.S. politics because it is imperative and apparent that the American public needs access to adequate health care. The Mental Health and Addiction Equity act, passed in 2008, aimed to improve health-care for people who suffer from mental illness and substance abuse. In doing so, the government required implementation of mental health-care coverage in private insurance plans. While this is an improvement on the part of the government’s regulation of health insurance, there was a failure to regulate how much coverage would be provided.

From an economic perspective, companies, who primarily pursue economic profit, tend to take advantage of lack of regulation and cut costs of their product in order to increase profit. In the context of healthcare, insurance companies will cut some coverage to expand their profit. These cuts are usually made from mental health-care coverage, since it is commonly regarded as having inferior importance compared to medical health.


Keren Blaunstein is a contributor for The Daily Campus.  She can be reached via email at keren.blaunstein@uconn.edu.