“Insurers Failing to Cover Mental Health,” Newsday Letters, by Andrew Malekoff, December 3, 2019

“Insurers Failing to Cover Mental Health,” Newsday Letters, by Andrew Malekoff, December 3, 2019

Insurers failing to cover mental health

The law to require mental health education in New York schools is a good step [“LI Schools’ New Focus on Mental Health,” News, Nov. 28]. However, almost half of all children in the country with a mental health disorder did not receive necessary care from a mental health professional in 2016, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.

We educate children to spot signs and symptoms and find resources – and then, in a cruel twist, many cannot access care.

Federal law requires insurers to treat mental health benefits the same as medical benefits, and to provide enrollees with timely access to a sufficient number of suitable mental health providers. This is known as network adequacy.

Too often, this does not happen, especially for middle-class and working-poor families, because health insurers pay substandard rates of reimbursement for the mental health care, thus depleting the networks. When families call for help, they are too often told, “I don’t accept your insurance.”

The health insurance industry does not comply with federal parity, and New York State does not adequately enforce the law. The state mandates mental health education in schools and lets the health insurance industry slide.

What do our kids learn? Once stigma is lifted, discrimination kicks in.

Andrew Malekoff, Long Beach

Editor’s note: The writer is executive director of North Shore Child and Family Guidance Center, a children’s mental health center in Roslyn Heights.