Most people understand that it's absolutely normal for women to suffer from postpartum depression — except insurance companies, it seems. After years of outreach and awareness campaigns, finding treatment for postpartum depression and anxiety that's actually covered by insurance is still hard to come by. For the most part, postpartum depression and anxiety are treated like any other mental health illness when it comes to insurance. But even under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), insurance companies are not required to have mental health coverage, though many do.
Legislators have been fighting to get postpartum depression and anxiety defined as a completely separate illness on its own, but when it comes to most insurance plans, any postpartum depression treatment will likely fall under the coverage for other mental health diagnoses.
Thanks to some lawmakers, postpartum depression and anxiety screening is a separate requirement for insurance companies in at least 12 states. These states either have legislation or awareness campaigns (which isn't much). States that require screenings, and thus cover then, include New Jersey, Illinois, and West Virginia. Texas, Virginia, Minnesota, and Oregon require education about postpartum depression and anxiety. When the ACA was passed in 2010, the MOTHERS Act was also included, which required more research into postpartum depression treatment, but so far, Congress hasn't approved any money for it.
So getting treatment for postpartum depression can be just as tricky as getting covered for any other mental health illness. It's one thing if you have a nice beefy plan you can afford, but for lower income mothers, seeing a counselor or getting other treatment can be trickier, even with the ACA in place.
In addition to trying to get covered, if a woman is covered for mental health and seeks treatment for postpartum depression, which can come and go, it's possible that their life insurance costs can actually go up because they've suffered from mental illness. Which sure, they may have, but postpartum anxiety and depression comes and goes, and isn't necessarily consistent.
If you think about it, that's sort of unfair, but totally legal on the insurance companies' side, according to The New York Times. It's a great advancement that postpartum depression is recognized as an actual mental health illness and it's being treated as a public health issue by lawmakers. And of course, it would be much better if mental health coverage was mandatory across the board.
But listen to this: According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, depression affects about 15 million Americans each year, somewhere just under 7 percent of the adult population. But 85 percent of women have postpartum depression and anxiety after giving birth. And of those women, 10 to 15 percent suffer from serious postpartum depression. So lumping postpartum depression and anxiety coverage in with general mental health issues is great and all from an awareness campaign perspective, but it's a much more serious public health issue overall and needs its own unique attention from both society and insurance companies.
Postpartum depression affects a huge percentage of those who give birth. Ensuring that screening and some treatment is covered is a good first step, but until specific postpartum screening and treatment are mandatory for all insurance plans (and accessible to those who are uninsured) there's a lot of work to be done.