Our office will assist you in determining the level of coverage and benefits you are eligible to use. If you choose to contact your insurance company directly remember that dealing with insurance plans can be challenging, especially when you are already stressed and worried about mental health issues you or a loved one are experiencing. For this reason, it is best to understand yourbenefits before you need to use them, if at all possible. The following are steps you can take to make sure you understand your benefits so that you can do whatever is within your control to have your treatment covered.
Reviewing Your Insurance Policy
The first thing to find out is what mental health benefits your insurance policy offers. Review your insurance policy so that you are clear about whether your policy includes coverage for mental health services, types of services that are covered and the amount paid for these services, and any steps you must take to have treatment covered. You should have received a copy of your insurance policy when you enrolled in the program, whether at work or independently. If you did not receive a copy of the policy or have lost yours, you can call your insurance company and ask for another one to be sent to you. Even if you have a copy of the plan, it is always helpful to speak to someone else and clarify questions. This way you can identify any possible points of confusion before you receive a bill. You should have a number on your card or on the website that will tell you whom to contact.
The following are some questions you will want to ask your insurance company, if possible, before starting treatment:
Do I need a referral from my primary care physician to a mental health professional?
Many insurance companies, especially Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) require referrals from a primary care physician to visit any specialist, including mental health professionals. If you do not receive a referral before visiting a mental health professional, your insurance company may deny your claims. If you think you require a referral, you should always get it in advance.
Do I need any pre-approval from the insurance company before I see a mental health professional?
A referral is an authorization from a medical doctor saying that the treatment is medically necessary; pre-approval or pre-authorization requires that your insurance company agrees to make the payment. You should call your insurance company to see if you need pre-approval, but you should also keep other questions in mind-how many visits are you approved for?
Do I need to see a mental health professional who is on a list provided by my insurance company (in a "network") or am I free to choose any qualified professional?
If you need an "in network" provider, you can usually find a directory online or ask your primary care physician to help pick someone out.
Does the amount paid by my insurance company depend on whether I see a professional who is "in their network or preferred provider list" or "outside the network"? If so, what is the difference in the amount paid or percent reimbursement for "in network" vs. "out of network" providers?
"In network" providers are almost always cheaper than "out of network" providers, although whether you want to save money or visit a doctor you prefer is a choice you will have to make. Bear in mind that your insurance company may not always have a flat difference. For some companies, seeing an "in network" provider may cost you a $20 co-pay, and an "out of network" provider will cost you $30; in others, "in network" may cost you $20 and an "out of network" may cost you 20% - which could be significantly higher than $30.
Are there dollar limits, visit limits or other coverage limits for my mental health benefits? Is there a difference in what is paid for outpatient vs. inpatient treatment? If so, what are my benefits for each of these?
It is not uncommon, for some insurance plans to have limited mental health visits. If you exceed these services, you will have to pay out of pocket.
Is there a specific list of diagnoses for which services are covered? If so, is my diagnosis one of those covered by my policy?
Insurance companies often have the option to not include certain diagnoses in all policies. If you applied with your condition as a pre-existing condition, they may not cover anything related to that. Your insurance company will provide you with a list of covered and uncovered diagnoses.