Florida Tennis Magazine – December 2008 Issue – by John F. Murray, Ph.D. – I have been talking forever about how mental ailments and difficulties are often ten times worse than a broken leg. Unfortunately we still live in a society where talking about mental problems or admitting that you are going to a sports psychologist to improve your game is something to hide from others or feel embarrassed about.
Well … times have officially – and I mean officially – changed! A new mental health parity law in America dramatically expands coverage of mental health treatment. As a licensed psychologist and sports psychologist in the state of Florida, this means that my services will be even more available to struggling tennis players who might also have a minor or significant psychological ailment like anxiety or depression, and who want to obtain my clinical services and reimbursement from their insurance company.
In a massive triumph for mental health care in America, Congress passed and President George Bush signed in a new law that requires insurance companies to cover mental health services at the same level they do for physical services. The bill is the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, and it passed Oct. 3 of this year as part of a measure that included the $700 billion financial bailout plan. It was approved by a vote of 263 to 171 in the House and 74 to 25 in the Senate. The parity law takes effect Jan. 1, 2010.
This is wonderful news for consumers of all psychological services including legitimate sports psychology. Psychologists have been fighting for mental health parity for almost 20 years and they finally won, and won decisively. The 2008 bill closes several loopholes left by the 1996 Mental Health Parity Act by barring insurance companies from arbitrarily limiting all aspects of mental health coverage, including the number of outpatient treatment sessions, or assigning higher co-payments or deductibles for those who need psychological services. The law also ensures mental health and substance use coverage for both in-network and out-of-network services when a plan provides this for physical health services. I operate as an out-of-network provider, and provide needed information to my clients should they wish to bill their insurance companies in the proper circumstances where I can establish a legitimate diagnosis.
Proponents of the law say that ending insurance discrimination for mental health and substance use disorders will encourage more patients to seek psychological care. In the APA Monitor it was reported,”We are ushering in a new era of health care for those with mental illnesses, said one of the bill’s main sponsors in the Senate, Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.). No longer will we allow mental health to be treated as a stepchild in the health-care system.”
Research has long established that physical health is directly connected to mental and emotional health. So if you are a person that is struggling with mental health issues, you do not even have to be in extreme distress to get help and bill insurance. Many people struggle with adjustment disorders, anxiety or depression and do not even know it. In the new world we live in, you will be able to afford a legitimate and licensed psychologist who also happens to practice sports psychology. So you can improve your mental health at a lower cost to you, and come on top with a better serve and volley too.
Afterall, you go to the dentist twice a year. What is more important to you, your teeth, or your whole entire well being?
Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.