Exclusions and limitations in children's behavioral health care coverage

Psychiatr Serv. 2002 May;53(5):591-4. doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.53.5.591.


Objective: The objective of this study was to identify benefit limits, diagnostic exclusions, and service exclusions of private behavioral health care plans that can influence the delivery of care to children.

Methods: A total of 128 commercial, employment-based behavioral health plans were examined for types of benefit limits, service exclusions, and diagnostic exclusions applicable to children.

Results: Almost half of the plans had restrictions on the number of outpatient visits, with limits ranging from 12 to 60 clinic visits a year. More than half of the plans had limitations on the number of inpatient days, ranging from 20 to 60 days a year. Diagnoses excluded from coverage included autism, mental retardation, problems related to child abuse, and impulse control disorders, such as kleptomania and pyromania. Half of the services excluded could be categorized as either social and human services or complementary medicine rather than as mental health care.

Conclusions: Plans commonly had service and diagnostic exclusions that could disrupt children's health care. The results of the study emphasize a need to address the types of treatment covered by mental health insurance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Health Services / economics*
  • Child Health Services / supply & distribution
  • Eligibility Determination
  • Health Maintenance Organizations / economics*
  • Humans
  • Insurance Coverage
  • Mental Disorders / economics
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Mental Health Services / economics*
  • Mental Health Services / supply & distribution
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United States