Since the passage of the 2008 Affordable Care Act, which legislated that insurance providers treat mental and physical illnesses similarly, you can get mental and behavioral healthcare coverage via any health insurance plan. Despite that requirement, insurance plans vary considerably in coverage of mental health treatment, including for the kinds of mental health care services offered, how many mental health care providers are in-network, and whether telehealth is covered.
The best mental health insurance has a significant number of in-network providers so you don’t have a long wait for treatment, allows you to get treatment without a referral, and provides additional online or offline resources for your support. This roundup will help you find a mental health insurance provider that best fits your mental and behavioral health needs.
The Best Mental Health Insurance for 2021
Best OverallMore details
- Policy Types: HMO, HMO-POS, PFFS, PDP, D-SNP, PPO, EPO, POS, HDHP
- AM Best rating: A
- States Available: 50
Best Telehealth CoverageMore details
- Policy Types: HMO, PPO, EPO, POS, SNP, PDP
- AM Best: A
- States Available: 10
Best Affordable PlansMore details
- Policy Types: HMO, PPO, PFFS, D-SNP, C-SNP, PDP
- AM Best: Not rated
- States Available: 50
Best Prescription Drug CoverageMore details
- Policy Types: HMO, D-SNP
- AM Best: N/A
- States Available: 8, plus D.C.
Best for Talk TherapyMore details
- Policy Types: HMO, PPO, PFFS
- AM Best: A-
- States Available: 50 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico
Best Mental Health ResourcesMore details
- Policy Types: HMO, PPO, POS, EPO, HDHP
- AM Best: A
- States Available: 50 states and D.C.
Best Overall : UnitedHealthcare
- Policy Types: HMO, HMO-POS, PFFS, PDP, D-SNP, PPO, EPO, POS, HDHP
- AM Best rating: A
- States Available: 50
UnitedHealthcare provides comprehensive mental and behavioral healthcare coverage as part of its insurance plans, which can include Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) and telehealth appointments. It allows you to track mental health daily and get online therapy through the Talkspace website and the Sanvello mobile app.
Offers easy access to therapy, including 24/7 support hotlines
Has online mental health resources
Helps you find an in-network provider online
Might be more expensive than other coverage
Mental health services might not be accessible nationwide.
You might have to wait to see an in-person provider.
UnitedHealthcare wins the overall best mental health coverage because of its comprehensive treatment options for mental health issues. It includes coverage for problems not typically covered such as compulsive spending and gambling. Its policies allow you to access 24/7 support and the company has great online and mobile tools to help with your treatment. Most notable is the Sanvello app that allows you to track your mood, connect with peer communities, and track your personal progress with weekly check-ins.
UnitedHealthcare covers telehealth, inpatient, and outpatient mental health services through doctors, hospitals, or treatment centers, prescription drugs (with many of their policies), and mental and behavioral health specialists. Its network has more than 1.3 million providers and 6,500 facilities across the country.
Your deductible and copay options with UnitedHealthcare depend on your plan. However, after meeting your deductible, you typically pay around 20% of costs with cost-sharing plans. UnitedHealthcare provides coverage nationwide but does not offer all its plans in every state. In fact, some of its in-person mental health care options might be limited in certain counties or rural areas.
UnitedHealthcare has been in business since 1977 and is a trusted healthcare provider. AM Best gave the company a financial strength rating of A (excellent) in 2020.
Read the full UnitedHealthcare review.
Best Telehealth Coverage : Cigna
Cigna allows you to connect with mental or behavioral care 24/7 through a nurses' hotline and has a number of options for telehealth appointments.
Offers individual, employer, Medicare, and Medicaid plans
Has a large provider network
Offers a Healthy Rewards program for wellness
Individual and family coverage limited to just 10 states
Doesn’t explicitly list conditions covered
24/7 hotline might not provide continuity of care.
Cigna offers virtual telehealth services with board-certified doctors, pediatricians, nurse practitioners, licensed therapists, and psychiatrists garnering the win for best telehealth coverage. Its telehealth services have no waiting rooms and are offered 24/7 on-demand for behavioral and mental health issues including addictions, bipolar disorders, depression, eating disorders, panic disorders, parenting issues, postpartum depression, stress, marital issues, and PTSD.
Cigna offers a significant system of outpatient and inpatient mental health care treatment. Its outpatient support includes 12-step programs, therapy, support groups, and partial hospitalization.
It has a large network of providers with 175,000 mental and behavioral healthcare providers. Cigna also offers a mobile app to help you manage your care as well as a significant number of online mental health resources. You will have access to a behavioral awareness series information, articles, podcasts, pain resource hub, and the provider directory.
Cigna offers group plans and individual medical plans via the Health Insurance Marketplace. In 2020, Cigna offered individual and family plans in select counties in 10 states (Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia). Cigna has both high- and low-deductible plans available.
Providing coverage since 1981, Cigna is a trusted name in healthcare coverage. Cigna is currently rated A by AM Best in the category of financial strength.
Read the full Cigna review.
Best Affordable Plans : WellCare
WellCare, part of Centene Corporation, is the best in affordable mental health insurance plans because it provides government-sponsored health coverage via Medicare and Medicaid contracts. It is therefore a low-cost and affordable option that also offers comprehensive treatments for mental health.
Provides affordable coverage
Offers a number of different types of inpatient and outpatient treatments
Has a 24/7 crisis line
Mental health support programs limit the number of sessions you can access.
Focuses on group treatment options
Doesn’t offer coverage through the healthcare marketplace
As the winner for the best affordable plans, WellCare offers a variety of plan options under Medicare and Medicaid. Its mental health coverage supports conditions such as depression, drug and alcohol issues, loss of appetite, and many other forms of mental or behavioral health problems.
WellCare allows you to search for a provider on its website, offers a 24-hour crisis line, and gives a wide range of treatment options from telehealth appointments to residential addiction treatment, partial hospitalization, online programs, and outpatient services.
However, the company only offers one mental health assessment and one chemical dependence assessment during a 12-month period. Notably, WellCare's online resources are limited compared to other providers.
WellCare works with over 571,000 healthcare professionals. While it operates in 50 states, all of its plans might not be available everywhere. Deductibles for mental health services depend on the WellCare plan chosen.
WellCare was founded in 1985 and has not been given a rating by AM Best.
Read the full WellCare review.
Best Prescription Drug Coverage : Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente has, at the cornerstone of its mental health care treatment strategy, one-on-one sessions with a psychiatrist, nurse practitioner, or physician assistants who specialize in diagnosing mental health conditions and prescribing medication for your mental and behavioral health concerns.
Don’t need a referral for mental health care
Covers one-on-one collaborative therapy
Offers group therapy
Must use in-network facilities
Not offered nationwide
Higher cost than some other plans
You don’t need a referral for mental health or addiction care and you can easily get a one-on-one session with a mental health professional who is immediately able to prescribe you psychiatric drugs. This access is what earns Kaiser the top spot for prescription drug coverage. Refill your covered medications online through Kaiser Permanente’s pharmacy and have them mailed to you, making your prescription drug coverage seamless.
Kaiser Permanente offers a number of types of care for mental health: primary care, emergency care, and specialty areas that intertwine with your mental health such as cardiac care or oncology. Self-care tools and resources online are available at no cost with treatment for all mental, emotional, or substance use conditions just a phone call away. Kaiser offers members telehealth appointments, group and individual therapy, inpatient services, and outpatient services.
Kaiser Permanente has an online app for you to manage your treatment and self-care apps for you to manage your daily mental wellness. It does not list the number of mental health providers it works with.
As a well-known health plan provider, Kaiser Permanente was founded in 1945 but operates in just eight states (Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia) and the District of Columbia. They do not have an AM Best rating for financial strength.
Read the full Kaiser Permanente review.
Best for Talk Therapy : Humana
Humana has a network of over 65,000 psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nurse practitioners, and licensed counselors to choose from, allowing you to find the right fit for your needs.
A care team helps connect you as quickly as possible with the help you need.
Supports complex and chronic mental health conditions
Provides 30 days of follow-up care post-discharge from inpatient treatment
Does not have as many online or app based resources as other insurers
You require a referral from your care team for mental healthcare.
Humana takes the podium for best talk therapy health insurance because it provides these services with the support of a network of 65,000 professionals, giving you quick access to the help and support that you need.
Humana's team of mental health experts ensures that plan members receive the care needed to optimize their mental health and support complex cases that require significant coordination. Humana provides 30 days of follow-up appointments once a patient is discharged from inpatient care.
Humana has a mobile app to manage your healthcare and has a limited number of resources available to support your mental health online. Psychiatric drugs are covered if drug coverage is a part of your plan. Deductibles are contingent on the Humana plan you choose.
Humana offers HMO, PPO, and PFFS Medicare Advantage plans but not all plans and options are available in every state. Employer-sponsored plans are available but it does not offer healthcare marketplace insurance coverage to individuals at this time.
Founded in 1961, Humana is headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, and operates in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Humana has an AM Best rating of A- in the category of financial strength.
Read the full Humana review.
Best Mental Health Resources : Aetna
Aetna boasts an impressive complement of online resources to help you stay on top of your mental health including online anxiety, depression, and mood self-assessment tools used to help you determine how to treat your mental health. Aetna is a part of CVS Health.
Has a search tool to help you find a mental health provider near you
Offers telehealth counseling
Is available nationwide
Might exclude out-of-network providers, depending on your plan
Does not cover experimental mental health care services
Does not offer individual plans outside Medicare and Medicaid supplements
As the winner of the mental health resources category, Aetna has extensive online self-assessment tools with a mental health-specific website for members to improve their behavioral health. The website publishes informative articles that break down conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia, walking patients through what treatment options are available.
Aetna makes it easy to find doctors with a search feature that connects you with doctors, counselors, or psychiatrists that are in your network and near you. It's designed to streamline the treatment process whether that is for inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, talk therapy, telehealth support, or group therapy.
Aetna offers Medicare, Medicaid, and employer-sponsored plans. You can choose from HMO, PPO, POS, EPO, and HDHP plans. Deductibles and prescription drug coverage vary depending on what plan you choose. Aetna also has new offerings for individuals in the health insurance marketplace.
Aetna was founded in 1852 providing individuals and employers healthcare coverage. It is headquartered in Hartford, Connecticut, and operates in all 50 states plus Washington, D.C. Aetna has an AM Best rating of A in the category of financial strength.
Read the full Aetna review.
The mental health insurance companies that made our "best of" list all offer options that allow you to easily access mental health support through programs that fit your needs. Options include telehealth appointments, apps, outpatient treatment, and inpatient treatment. Some insurance companies offer 24/7 access to support or have more in-network providers to help decrease wait times, giving you more options.
Overall, we recommend UnitedHealthcare’s mental health insurance because it offers a number of options to get mental health support, treats conditions that aren’t covered by other providers, and allows you to access care 24/7.
Compare the Best Mental Health Insurance
|Company||Plans||Providers In-Network||AM Best Rating||Deductible||States Available|
|HMO, HMO-POS, PFFS, PDP, D-SNP, PPO, EPO, POS, HDHP||1.3 million providers||A||Depends on your plan||50 states|
Best Telehealth Coverage
|HMO, PPO, EPO, POS, SNP, PDP||175,000 mental health providers||A||Depends on your plan||10 states|
Best Affordable Plans
|HMO, PPO, PFFS, D-SNP, C-SNP, PDP||571,000 providers||Not rated||Depends on your plan||50 states|
Best Prescription Drug Coverage
|HMO, D-SNP||65,000 mental health providers||Not rated||Depends on your plan||8 states and Washington, D.C.|
Best for Talk Therapy
|HMO, PPO, and PFFS Medicare Advantage plans||Not listed online||A-||Depends on your plan||50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico|
Best Mental Health Resources
|HMO, PPO, POS, EPO and HDHP||700,000 providers||A||Depends on your plan||50 states and Washington, D.C.|
How to Choose the Best Mental Health Insurance
When choosing a mental health insurance plan, weigh these factors:
- Number of providers: The more mental health providers a health plan has in-network, the more likely you’ll be able to get in to see someone quickly.
- Telehealth options: If you have an ongoing mental health issue, telehealth is convenient and fits better into your life. It’s often faster to see someone via telehealth.
- Treatment options: Look for providers that offer a mix of outpatient and inpatient services.
- Online resources: Choose providers that have online or mobile mental health services to support you.
- Prescription coverage: Good mental health coverage involves access to psychiatric drug-prescribing providers with adequate coverage for your prescriptions.
- Access to care without a referral: Needing a referral for an urgent mental health issue slows down your care. Choose a plan that allows you direct access to mental health care.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can You Buy Just Mental Health Insurance?
You cannot buy mental health insurance on its own. However, it is required by the Affordable Care Act that all plans include coverage for mental health. That said, the type of coverage you get for mental health and behavioral health services can vary significantly from one insurer to the next and might depend on the choices you or your employer make around policy types and add-ons to coverage. If you’re purchasing a plan through the health insurance marketplace, look into what the insurer offers in terms of mental health coverage before you commit to a plan.
How Do I Know If Private Insurance Covers Mental Health?
All private insurance plans must cover mental health care as part of the Affordable Care Act. However, you will want to check your private health insurance plan to see what kinds of treatment options are actually covered. Reach out to your insurance company to inquire whether telehealth is covered, how many mental health providers are in-network, and what in-person treatments are available.
Is Mental Health Insurance Expensive?
Mental health insurance is already included in your health insurance coverage, but getting a plan that offers you better mental health treatments might cost you more. Since treatments such as therapy sessions can cost up to $250 per hour, having good mental and behavioral health coverage is worth it.
We researched a dozen companies that offered mental health insurance as part of their plans and narrowed our choices down based on the number of plans, how many providers were in-network, the types of services offered, and the states available. We also considered the reputation of the insurance provider, the length it had been in business, and the company’s financial strength rating.
The companies that made it into this roundup all have a reputation of providing great mental health insurance, have a long history of providing healthcare coverage, and allow you to customize your mental health and behavioral health coverage.