Whitman-Walker Institute’s Lienna Feleke-Eshete OpEd: “Our Country is Facing a Youth Mental Health Crisis, Particularly Among BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ Youth. D.C.’s New $5 Insurance Copay is Saving Lives.”

May 29, 2024

Penned by Lienna Feleke-Eshete, Senior Manager of Policy, Whitman-Walker Institute, and published in The Washington Informer, the crux of this OpEd is that research shows that the cost of mental health services remains a persistent barrier for families, especially for families of color.

Working in collaboration with Whitman-Walker and Children’s National Hospital, the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority (DCHBX), which operates DC Health Link (the Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplace in D.C.), implemented an equity-based benefit design into their DC Health Link Standard Plans, which are designed to make shopping easier and cover essential in-network services without having to meet the deductible first. Each health insurance carrier in DC Health Link offers a standard plan at various levels of coverage in the individual and family marketplace and the small business marketplace.

This policy change resulted in a $5 copay across all Standard Plans for unlimited mental and behavioral health visits and prescriptions for all youth under age 19, with no deductibles. This change means that families that were previously paying $2,340 per year for weekly therapy visits would now pay $260 annually for critical care that their child needs. The positive impact of this $5 policy change on youth of color and LGBTQIA+ youth in the District cannot be overstated. It has literally saved lives.

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