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Mental Disorder: The Most Expensive Condition in the US


In a recent study published by the journal Health Affairs, mental disorders come out on top as the costliest condition to treat in the United States. Reportedly, the cost of treating mental disorders for the 2013 year amounted to $201 billion. What’s surprising about this fact is that the treatment of heart conditions has been historically been the costliest illness to treat in America. In fact, the dollar amount spent on treating heart conditions came at a distant second place with $147 billion. In fact, in 1996 the treatment of heart conditions commanded an annual expense of $105 billion, while mental illnesses treatment amounted to $79 billion. Moreover, a SAMHSA report states that 42.5 million American adults (or 18.2 percent of the total adult population in the United States) suffers from some mental illness. Needless to say, the larger question to explore is: With such an escalation of costs, why has so little progress been made towards reducing the numbers of Americans experiencing mental health disorders?


This seems to be the case. Statistical data from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicate that close to 8.4 million adults in the United States suffer from both a mental disorder and substance abuse. However, only 7.9% of people receive treatment for both conditions, and 53.7% receive no treatment at all. For those that go untreated, the situation can potentially degenerate into more severe cases of mental illnesses. A study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse states that people with severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder have a higher risk for substance use. As for the ballooning price in the treatment of mental conditions, this is partially attributed to the fact that over 40% of the $201 billion spent on mental disorder treatment was spent on institutionalized mental health care. In fact, Dr. Maria Oquendo, President of the American Psychiatric Association says ‘”the fact that more than 40 percent is spent on populations in prisons, nursing homes, and other institutional settings demonstrates the need to invest more in preventive care”. Inadvertently or not, Dr. Oquendo raises a legitimate point when making reference to the large number of people in prison needing substance abuse and mental disorder treatment. Interestingly, the American Civil Liberties Union points out that with only 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. has more than 20% of the world’s prison population. Moreover, according to Newswise, nearly half of all state prisoners are drug abusers or drug dependent, but only 10 percent receive medically based drug treatment during incarceration.

Consequently, and in light of the cascading economic effects of a large untreated prison population in America, Dr. Oquendo’s statement points out at the fact the spending wisely at an early stage of prevention is less expensive than treating patients with mental disorders at a later stage – when the illness has degenerated and the costs become prohibitively expensive. However, it’s not just about spending wisely in preventive care. The fact of the matter is that legal and regulatory frameworks must also be in place to adequately attend to the needs of all members of U.S. society. Suitably, Dr. Oquendo goes on to say that health insurance companies should be compelled to cover mental illness in the same manner as they cover physical illnesses.


A large number of Americans that go untreated for addiction and co-occurring disorders may be unaware of the fact that the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) expands coverage for the treatment of mental disorder and substance abuse. This law grants both federal parity protections to substance use and mental health disorders. Consequently, as of 2014, for most small employer and individual plans, mental health and substance use disorder services must meet MHPAEA requirements. Overall, it is estimated that 62 million Americans will benefit from MHPAEA. This healthcare benefit extension law will enable most health plans to cover preventive services, which in turn, should have impactful benefits to the those in need of treatment for co-occurring disorders. More importantly, preventative mental health care can, in the long run, lower the prohibitive costs annually spent on mental health treatment.

Verify If Your Insurance Covers Mental Health or Substance Use Disorder

Remember, you don’t have to become a statistic. So, if you or someone you know happens to be experiencing a co-occurring disorder such as substance abuse and mental disorders, BLVD Treatment Centers may be able to get you the right type of help, at the right place. We can help you verify that your insurance will cover your specific needs including Mental Disorder. The insurance verification process consists of our team calling your insurance company to see what benefits are available for you to use for substance abuse and mental health services. From detox, residential, and intensive outpatient services we can help you understand what your options are and explain to you what choices you have for treatment programs and Mental Disorder. Call BLVD at 1-866.583.2384 for a FREE CONSULTATION. As always. we invite you to share, comment and interact with other members of the BLVD Treatment Centers community on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. The NSDUH Report: State Estimates of Adult Mental Illness from the 2011 and 2012 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health. Retrieved May 26, 2016

Health Affairs. Mental Disorders Top the List of the Costliest Conditions in the United States: $201 Billion. Retrieved May 24, 2016

NPR. Doctors Often Fail To Treat Depression Like A Chronic Illness. Retrieved May 24, 2016

Psychiatric News. Mental Disorders Top List of Most Costly Health Conditions in the United States. Retrieved May 26, 2016

Huffington Post. 7 Alarming Stats You Need to Know About Mental Health and Work. Retrieved May 24, 2016

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. Retrieved May 26, 2016

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Preventive Services Covered Under the Affordable Care Act. Retrieved May 26, 2016