This article is part of the Here. Now. essay series, which seeks to de-stigmatize mental health treatment, and improve accessibility to treatment and support for teens and parents in metropolitan New York.
My husband’s employer recently changed health insurance coverage. Concerned about the transition, he researched this new company and made countless phone calls in order to ensure that many of my services and doctors would continue to be covered. I receive many services for my depression, and we were incessantly informed that they would all continue to be covered.
Well, we were mindful of the reality of health insurance coverage and went in with a bit of mistrust and wariness. It turns out, it is important to be wary in this day and age. While we are in the midst of fighting for continued maintenance coverage for TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation), a procedure I will need to continue to receive monthly to improve symptoms of depression, it was a simple phone call I had with a case manager in the behavioral health department that stopped me in my tracks.
I called and specifically asked for a case manager to follow my services. I had one with my previous health insurance carrier, which was helpful when I needed further support or help with service authorization. This representative explained that they only assigned patients to case managers when hospitalized, and they only follow the patients during the hospitalization, not long term. She then relayed that on the medical side, they provide case managers to those with “complex” medical issues, but they do not provide this in behavioral health.
“Are you kidding?” I asked. “So we need to call random people in behavioral health when we have questions about coverage and then receive conflicting answers (which has been our reality)?”
She responded, “Well, I am sorry you have received varying pieces of information but anyone in our clinical department has access to your record.”
“OK. That is extremely unfortunate.”
And yes, it is unfortunate, not just for me but for the countless other members of this health insurance company who require special management but who are not even offered this important service.
My naivete got the best of me. The bias and stigma I felt as a result of this one phone conversation felt like I had taken on such a burden—a full load of insecurity, pain and anger—all because I suffer from a mental illness. I was put in my place, and due to my illness being housed in the behavioral health department, this place is empty and lonely. I have an invisible illness and according to my health insurance company, I am invisible. My medical needs are not important.
When will things change? With so much going on the world right now, mental health care and support are key to all our survival. People need access to care and with that, appropriate coverage. Health care is expensive and this expense already bars so many from receiving the care they need.
My husband and I are doing our part and will continue to combat medically necessary and appropriate coverage for my mental illness. This is an urgent issue. I require monthly maintenance treatments to ward off a fourth depressive episode within four years, and not receiving these treatments (under $500 each) could mean ending up in the hospital because of severe depression ($30,000). I am no math whiz, but the difference is rather evident.
My illness may be called invisible, but I’ve got news for my health insurance company: I am not.
This post is part of the Here.Now series, which seeks to destigmatize mental health,
and is made possible by UJA-Federation of New York and The Jewish Board.
You can find other educational mental health resources here.