12 tips on finding mental-health care that you can afford

This story first appeared in the April 30, 2022 edition of MLive Kalamazoo. It is part of the Mental Wellness Project, a solutions-oriented journalism initiative covering regional mental health issues, created by the Southwest Michigan Journalism Collaborative. SWMJC is a group of 13 regional organizations, including Southwest Michigan's Second Wave, dedicated to strengthening local journalism. For more info visit swmichjournalism.com.

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So you feel depressed or anxious or stressed, and think mental-health counseling would help.

But you also have an insurance plan that requires you to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars before coverage kicks in.

Perhaps no surprise, cost is the No. 1 barrier to obtaining mental-health care, according to a 2018 federal survey of 5,000 Americans.

But instead of giving up, it’s important to explore your options -- and there are a surprising number for people worried about the cost of mental-health services.

Let’s go through 12 of those ideas.

1. Check your insurance. You may be surprised.

The Affordable Care Act requires private insurance plans to cover outpatient and inpatient mental-care services with the same co-pays and deductibles as other health care. So if you have a low deductible and co-pays for doctor visits, the same would apply to counseling appointments. Even if you have a high deductible, the insurance plan will offer discounted rates for in-network mental-health providers.

It’s worth noting that Medicaid covers mental-health services, and the co-pay for those on the Healthy Michigan plan is $2 to $4 per therapy visit. Healthy Michigan also will cover transportation costs to and from appointments.

2. If you’re uninsured, see if you qualify for Healthy Michigan.

The Healthy Michigan program is available to adults age 19 to 64, and have an income under 138% of the federal poverty guidelines, or about $18,750 for a single person or $27,750 for a family of four.

Subsidies for Obamacare private insurance plans also are available, and people with an income below 250% of the poverty level -- $34,000 for a single person and $69,375 for a family of four -- benefit from caps on co-pays and deductibles.

If you need help applying for Healthy Michigan or private insurance, mental-health agencies such as Family & Children Services of Kalamazoo and Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services have people who can guide you through the process.

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