Mental health advocates push for enforcement of parity law

LITTLETON, Colo. -- Blake Jones, a teenager from Littleton, had a difficult few years getting treatment for bipolar disorder and addiction.

“It was real hard,” he said.

He shared his story, alongside the group Mental Health Colorado, at an event at the state capital pushing for better enforcement of the parity law on the 10th anniversary of its passage.

The federal law is designed to ensure that insurance coverage for mental health is no more restrictive than coverage for physical health.

Jones' mom, Amy, told the crowd that accessing care was the hardest part.  She says the family had insurance that offered 100 percent mental health care coverage after a deductible was met.

But when Blake was in crisis, and the ER doctor said he needed hospitalization, the insurance company said he had to have an in-office appointment with a doctor who was not available for 10 days.

Then a panel that meets once a week would need to approve.

“We just didn’t have that kind of time. We were in an emergency. So what would happen is we had nowhere to go so, we would end up in private pay,” Amy Jones said.

Over three years, the family spent more than $200,000 out of pocket to get their son treatment.

“We are not ready to declare victory because we've heard from too many families, including one you will meet today,  who are traveling too far and paying too much and waiting too long to get the care they need,” said Andrew Romanoff, president and CEO of Mental Health Colorado.

The Colorado Association of Health Plans says one major problem is there are not enough providers to serve the community in a timely manner.

As for Blake, he got help and is doing well.

“He’s mentally and physically healthy and happy, and in college and we are really proud of him,” Amy Jones said.

The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies Division of Insurance says it has had only had three complaints about this in 2018.

One goal of the event at the capital was to raise awareness, and encourage patients to report problems.

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