Sharmaine D Barnes, LMFT, CEAP
Racial Trauma Specialist
Until lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter
– African Proverb (Igbo, Nigeria)
Insurance and Your Mental Health
Although I accept many insurance plans, here's some things you should consider if you plan on using your insurance to pay for your mental health treatment:
Health insurance companies require you to be diagnosed with a legitimate and treatable DSM-5 mental health condition in order for them to pay for your treatment. However, not everyone who seeks psychotherapy has a mental illness, but instead may be struggling with life stressors and just need to get back on track.
If I assess and give you a diagnosis your health insurance will then keep it on file permanently. The diagnosis given is entered into the Medical Information Bureau and stays on your record permanently, and as stated above can affect your future. For example, if you seek a job that requires a security clearance, if you would like to purchase a gun, life insurance, etc. mental health diagnoses may be taken into account.
You can get your entire file from the Medical Information Bureau at www.mib.com. It lists your date of service, doctor name, and diagnosis.
Some insurance companies reimburse therapists at a very low rate--typically much lower than the set fee from the clinician. This makes it hard to do good work with clients when your therapist may be worrying about how she is going to pay their bills and sustain their practice. Insurance companies can also take 30 days or longer to reimburse their providers. Imagine if you did not know when your employer was going to pay you, or even worse, told you after a while they decided they aren't going to pay you.
Your treatment remains confidential when you do not use insurance. If I am not billing your insurance company, the information about your treatment remains confidential between you and I unless you wish to release that information to another party.
Insurance companies want a lot of information about you and your treatment, and require your therapist to update them on your progress frequently because it is their money after all. Be advised that I would have to speak to a complete stranger on the phone who may or may not be trained in mental health treatment, and who is putting information in their company database about you, and who determines whether or not the therapy is helping you.
I've provided you the aforementioned information so that you can make an informed decision regarding whether or not you want to use your health insurance to pay for psychotherapy services.
If, however, you are still interested in using your health insurance please check your coverage carefully by asking the following questions of your health insurance company:
***Most health plans are authorizing teletherapy services due to the COVID-19 pandemic; however, please check with your specific plan to make sure teletherapy or telehealth is a covered benefit. Please be advised that the list of insurance plans I accept is constantly changing because I closed my commercial office and some insurance plans require that I maintain a commercial rather than virtual office in order to remain in their network.***
Insurance Plans Accepted:
Beacon Health Options
Blue Shield of California
Health Plan of San Joaquin Medi-Cal
Kaiser Permanente of Northern California (I'm a direct community provider)
Payment for services must be made at the time services are rendered. Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover Cards are accepted for payment.
If you do not show up for your scheduled therapy appointment and have not notified me at least 24 hours in advance, you may be required to pay the full cost of the missed teletherapy session.