Your Rights to Mental Health Services

Did you know that approximately one in five people experience a mental illness? Yet too many San Diegans go without mental health treatment. Few are aware of their right to equal insurance coverage or how to advocate for it; this prevents people from getting what they need.

There are two mental health parity laws that apply to Californians: a state parity law and a federal parity law. Which law applies depends on the type of health plan and who provides coverage.

Mental health parity means equal insurance coverage for mental health care. State and federal parity laws require that health plans provide mental health benefits equal to those for other health benefits. For example, plans cannot make you pay more for mental health therapy appointments than you pay for physical health appointments.

The 1999 California Mental Health Parity Act applies to California’s state-regulated private insurers. It does not include “self-funded” plans; nor does it include federal programs such as Medicare, Medi-Cal or Veterans Administration programs. Federal parity laws may apply to plans or programs not covered by California law.

Disability Rights California helps with mental health parity issues by providing counsel and advice, technical assistance to file complaints, and direct representation in select cases raising systemic issues.

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By Margaret Johnson, Disability Rights California