Finding the best mental health insurance is vital for millions of Americans who are being treated for mental health disorders. Fortunately all Affordable Care Act marketplace plans cover mental health services, as well as many group health insurance and private health insurance plans. Here’s a look at the offerings by the best health insurance companies.

Types of health insurance plans

  • Health maintenance organization (HMO) health insurance plans generally require referrals to see specialists. You won’t be covered if you seek care outside of the network, unless it’s for emergency care.
  • Preferred provider organization (PPO) health insurance plans usually don’t require referrals from your primary doctor to see specialists. PPO plans allow you to get medical care from a provider outside the network, but the services are covered at a much smaller percentage.
  • Exclusive provider organization (EPO) health insurance plans allow you to see a specialist without a referral, as long as it’s in network. EPO plans don’t pay for out-of-network care, unless it’s a medical emergency.

How To Choose the Best Mental Health Insurance

Many health insurance plans cover mental health, according to AHIP, a national association that represents the health insurance industry. In an AHIP study of insured Americans:

  • 6 in 10 respondents said their mental health treatment was fully covered by their health insurance policy
  • 3 in 4 said that it was easy to find the support they needed

To find the best mental health insurance for you, consider these factors:

  • Network size: Insurance companies that contract with many mental health providers, especially in your area, will give you the biggest selection of professionals and facilities where you can get care.
  • Virtual appointments: The best mental health insurance companies typically offer telehealth and virtual appointments, so you can receive mental health treatment anywhere.
  • Covered services: When comparing providers, pay attention to the services each plan covers. Consider choosing a plan that provides a good mix of inpatient and outpatient services for the most comprehensive coverage.
  • Referrals: Some health insurance plans, such as HMOs, require referrals from a primary care provider, while others don’t demand a referral. If you want to manage your own mental health care, look for plans that don’t require a referral for mental health visits, for instance a PPO health plan.
  • Free resources: Some health insurance providers offer free mental health resources for members, like Kaiser Permanente, which provides free access to the Ginger app.

What Is Covered by Mental Health Insurance?

Health insurance plans with mental health coverage typically cover many services. Here are some of the services that the best insurance for mental health covers:

  • Talk therapy: Talk therapy is a broad category that includes specific therapy modalities, like general counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy. If you’re meeting one-on-one with a therapist or psychologist, the session is typically covered by insurance, less out-of-pocket costs.
  • Inpatient hospitalization: Inpatient hospitalization is more intensive mental health treatment, which can be voluntary or involuntary. You stay in a hospital or facility for a short period and receive continuous care through individual and group therapy, medication management and coping strategies.
  • Partial hospitalization: Partial hospitalization is less intensive than full inpatient hospitalization. During partial hospitalization, you go through a structured program of psychiatric treatments during the day but don’t stay in the facility overnight.
  • Substance abuse treatment: Substance abuse treatment is a specific protocol that addresses drug and alcohol addiction. Health insurance plans may cover talk therapy, medication management, 12-step programs or medical detox for people going through substance abuse treatment.
  • Emergency care: Many mental health insurance plans cover emergency psychiatric care, also called crisis intervention. This might also include overdose treatment. The specific covered emergency services vary by plan.
  • Medication: Most health insurance plans cover at least a portion of the cost of pharmaceutical treatment for mental health disorders. Some plans may have a copay or other out-of-pocket costs for these medications.

What Does Mental Health Insurance Not Cover?

While many health plans provide comprehensive mental health coverage, they may exclude certain treatments like experimental therapies and non-medically necessary services. Every insurance plan is unique, so the list of exclusions will depend on your specific plan.

Here are some of the mental health services that health insurance policies don’t usually cover:

  • Addiction or mental health treatment that’s not medically necessary
  • Halfway houses
  • Genetic testing for psychotropic medication
  • Experimental therapies
  • Treatment requested by a third party, like a school or employer
  • Educational programs (like wilderness therapy) for addiction or mental health
  • Long-term mental health or addiction treatment

In most cases, health insurance doesn’t cover mental health treatments when intervention isn’t clinically necessary or connected to a medical diagnosis. For example, a health insurance plan may not cover therapy for bereavement or a major life change if the individual isn’t experiencing a clinical mental health disorder, like anxiety or depression, as a result of the event.

Can You Buy Standalone Mental Health Insurance?

Insurance companies don’t sell standalone mental health insurance plans, but many health insurance policies provide coverage for mental health treatment as part of the benefits.

In addition to private and group health insurance, you can also get mental health coverage through Medicaid, an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), VA healthcare, therapy apps and some nonprofit organizations.

Do All Health Insurance Companies Have to Offer Cover Mental Health?

Health insurance providers aren’t legally required to offer mental health coverage. The federal parity law instead says that insurers that provide mental health coverage must provide mental health/substance use disorder treatment that’s equal to or better than physical health coverage.

For example, under the federal parity law, an insurance company can’t charge a $25 copay for an annual checkup with a primary care provider and a $100 copay for a psychologist visit. The law also makes it harder for insurance companies to limit mental health-related appointments annually.

The federal parity law applies to many types of health insurance, including ACA marketplace plans, employer-sponsored coverage (for companies with more than 50 employees), Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Medicare is exempt from the federal parity law.

Does Health Insurance Cost More if it Covers Mental Health?

Health insurance plans that cover mental health aren’t necessarily more expensive than plans that exclude coverage for mental health. In fact, some health insurance plans, like ACA marketplace plans, must provide mental health services as one of the 10 essential benefits.

The cost of health care that includes mental health coverage varies based on many factors, including your location, the insurance company and the type of plan you choose. You can get a few insurance quotes to find the best mental health insurance with the lowest premium.

Other Options for Getting Mental Health Services

Besides private health insurance, there are many other ways you can get access to mental health treatment. Maybe you can’t afford health insurance premiums or your employer doesn’t offer medical insurance. Regardless of your situation, here are some alternative ways to get mental health treatment with or without insurance.


Medicaid is a federal- and state-funded health insurance program for low-income Americans. To get Medicaid, you must meet the income requirements in your state. Medicaid covers various mental health and substance abuse disorder treatments, including individual and group therapy, partial hospitalization, medical detox, residential treatment and medications.

Therapy apps

You might consider trying a therapy app if you don’t have mental health insurance. These mobile apps allow you to connect with a licensed mental health professional virtually or over the phone whenever convenient. Many apps, like Talkspace and BetterHelp, charge a monthly fee rather than a per-session rate.

Employee Assistance Program

An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a resource that helps individuals overcome personal issues that are affecting their job performance. This program provides counseling and treatment for various issues, including substance abuse, financial problems and relationship challenges. But you can only participate in an EAP if your employer offers it.

Veterans Affairs

If you served in the military, there are several ways to take advantage of mental health treatment services. VA offers free individual and group counseling for combat veterans, as well as substance abuse treatment programs, even for those not enrolled in VA Healthcare. If you have VA Healthcare, you can access more comprehensive mental health treatment benefits.

College counselors

If you’re in college, your campus health center may offer mental health services with licensed counselors. These services are often free for full-time students. On-campus counseling can be an accessible option for students who need assistance with stress management, anxiety, depression, substance abuse and even career uncertainty.

Nonprofit organizations

Many nonprofit organizations provide free mental health and addiction support through toll-free hotlines. These hotlines provide 24/7 crisis support and can give referrals to local treatment centers. Here are some resources that are available nationwide:

  • SAMHSA National Helpline
  • NAMI Helpline (National Alliance on Mental Illness)
  • 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline
  • The Trevor Project

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By Aban

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