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A wrist band acquired from the hospital.

The Cost of Mental Health Care

Yesterday, I received an $800+ bill from the hospital where I was treated during my first manic episode. Based on what we pay for health insurance, I didn’t think there’s no reason in hell that I should be charged.

This made me want to quickly run the numbers. Our family pays $1,600 per month for our base health insurance coverage, with a $1,500 per-person deductible. This means that to cover all family members including deductible, we pay $25,200 in annual insurance premiums.

All of this, only for the opportunity to receive an unexpected $800 bill – more than 60% of the total billed to the insurance company – via email. To top it off, I have only 10 days to pay it. But why?

According to one 2016 study, mental disorders are at the top of the list for most costly conditions in the United States.

More recently, The American Journal of Managed Care found that 57% of patients in the top 10% spending category had been diagnosed with mental health or substance abuse concerns.

Translating the situation into raw numbers, a report commissioned by the The Path Forward for Mental Health and Substance Use found that “5.7% of the entire study population – high-cost patients with both behavioral and physical conditions – accounted for 44% of all healthcare spending.”

Don’t get me wrong: I’m grateful for the quality care I received, so I’m not here to gripe and moan. Only to wonder why we’ve put ourselves in this situation, and why many of us continue to convince ourselves that the system works just fine.

In my experience, the healthcare system – especially related to mental health – is broken, assuming it ever worked properly in the first place.

Perhaps if we all spoke up, we could help remove the stigma of mental illness, while also changing society, and the things we let health insurance companies get away with.

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