Among the top reasons I hear from clients about why they stop taking their meds or coming to therapy is the cost of their mental health treatment. It’s no secret that psychiatric medications–especially the ones that are not available as generics–and psychotherapy costs are high.
For people who are low-income, on disability, or cannot work because of their mental health, the prospect of paying for appropriate treatment can be overwhelming. Even for people with insurance and reasonable incomes, mental health treatment can be pricey.
As the partner of someone with a mental illness, you, too, may be feeling the pinch and frustrated about the options that are (or are not) available for helping you and your partner.
What can you do to make your partner’s mental health treatment affordable?
- Communication with your partner’s treatment team is your top priority. From the first visit, you and your partner need to explain the limits of your finances, as this will help guide the clinicians when choosing appropriate treatments. For example, the psychiatrist may opt to prescribe an older generic drug instead of a newer one in order to reduce costs.
- When your partner meets with a therapist, it’s important to ask whether the therapist is in-network or out-of-network for your insurance plan. This can make a huge difference in how much you are expected to pay out-of-pocket for sessions. I always recommend that clients call their insurance company to verify their mental health benefits, including how many sessions they can have in a year. If your partner is only allowed 20 sessions in a year, their therapist might be able to negotiate for more once the 20 are used up, but if not, will you be able to afford the full fee?
- If your partner does not have insurance, or the insurance does not include mental health benefits, ask all treatment providers about whether they offer a sliding scale fee, pro bono services, or would be willing to work out a payment plan. Most clinicians who are in private practice do, but these slots are limited. Some universities with internship programs will also have low-fee clinics that are staffed by student trainees who are closely supervised by teaching physicians and clinicians.
- Find out if there are clinical trials recruiting participants in your area. Again, this would be most likely if you live near a university with a psychology/psychiatry department, but it might be worth a drive if your partner can get treatment for free or even be reimbursed for their participation. Go to clinicaltrials.gov or search the webpages of or call local universities to see what may be available.
- If your partner is still working, find out if their employer offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Often, this is a free service provided to employees and their families that offers a limited number of therapy sessions with trained clinicians. Your partner’s employer will not know that your partner is using the services. If your partner needs additional services beyond what the EAP can provide, the clinician will be able to refer your partner to appropriate community clinicians.
- If your state has state-run or community mental health facilities, look into the requirements for being treated by clinicians there. Many will have maximum income limits, may only treat certain illnesses, or may require that your partner be receiving state assistance through Medicaid or food stamps. To find a program in your area, try this link or Google your state name and “mental health.”
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