Teenagers and children today are growing up in the middle of a pandemic and waiting to see if there will be a World War III. Adults are feeling anxious and depressed due to everything occurring in the world. Therefore, it is no surprise that children and teenagers are experiencing an epidemic rate of anxiety disorders, depression, suicidal feelings and drug overdoses have increased significantly (CDC). Children and teenagers are needing psychotherapy desperately. I have at least 20 parents a day calling my office begging us to provide psychotherapy to their child. Many have explained that they have called every therapist around and either they were told the therapist had no room for any additional patients or they never received a return phone call.
The problem is that the mental health system is at its breaking point. In addition to parents needing to find a psychotherapist, they need to pay for the therapy. However, many insurance companies are finding ways not to cover psychotherapy. Insurance companies are raising the copayments that families have to pay for therapy. I actually have families whose copayments are $90 per session. With the cost of food, gas and electricity significantly increasing most families cannot afford $90 copayments and therefore they decide not to pursue the therapy.
Why are copayments important? If the therapist accepts an insurance, they have signed a provider agreement with the Insurance company. The agreement states how much the therapist will be paid. The therapist is not paid the rate you see on the consent form you sign with the therapist. The provider agreement states how much the insurance will pay after the patients pay their copay. So if the insurance agreed to pay the therapist $100 (the usual rate is typically $75) and the patient has a copy of $90, the insurance only pays the therapist $10. If the patient cannot pay the copay, then the therapist only receives $10. Insurance companies have been doing this for years. Therapist agree to these contacts because most people need to use insurance and cannot privately.
Therefore, insurance companies make a lot of money every year. They charge high premiums to the people using their insurance and under pay the providers. They have been under paying therapist the most for years because of the stigma associated with mental health.
Now we find ourselves in a situation where mental health is desperately needed. Because of the insurance company games there are not enough therapist to meet the need we have right now. Therefore, people need to speak up.
Most people get their insurance from their employers. Tell your employers the difficulties you are having and demand that insurance companies start to pay therapist a fair rate.
Additionally, as a society we need to change our attitudes regarding mental health care. We need to acknowledge that it is just as important as physical health and treatment physical and mental health as equals.
People have died because they contracted the coronavirus, however many have died due to suicide too. People could not tolerate the isolation or emergency room staff have not been able to tolerate the extreme emotional trauma due to the Coronavirus. As a result many emergency room physicians and nurses decided on suicide as a way to cope because they were so overwhelmed.
One important lesson from the Coronavirus and the Ukraine is that our system for mental health does not work. As a result, many people are dying including children and teenagers. Do we want our society to function this way. I hope not!
Therefore, we all need to make an effort to remove the negative stigma associated with mental health and demand that people dealing with mental health issues receive the same care as if they had a heart attack and the mental health clinicians receive the same respect and pay as the cardiologist. We will have another pandemic. We can either learn from this one or when the next crisis comes, we will not be prepared for the emotional trauma facing us and adults and children will die needlessly.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers and trauma victims including first responders. For more information about his practice please visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.con/drrubino3.