By law, mental health benefits are supposed to be as good as medical coverage. In practice, that’s not happening.
Like most dads, John Cooke would have done anything to save his daughter.
He was lucky he had the money. To make her well, to make his teenager want to live and stop planning her suicide, Cooke and his wife would end up paying $150,000.
With each denial from the family’s insurance company, the Cookes wrote another check. When the company deemed it no longer “medically necessary” for their teenager to stay in a residential treatment center in Wisconsin, or another center in Utah, the Cookes paid out of pocket until the doctors said she was well enough to come home.
Throughout the year-long saga, Cooke, a marketing consultant, wondered more than once how absurd the company’s denials would sound if his daughter had another kind of life-threatening disease — not one of the mind, but the body. Would they, he thought, say she had reached her limit on treatment for cancer or diabetes?
It has been more than a decade since the federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act was passed in 2008, mandating that insurance companies provide the same coverage for illnesses of the brain as for physical conditions — if they offered mental health benefits. The Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, went further, requiring insurance companies to cover mental health care and addiction treatment beginning in 2014.
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