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Student health plan will offer unlimited psychotherapy visits

The Extended MIT Hospital Insurance Plan for MIT students will add coverage for unlimited outpatient psychotherapy visits -- with no copayments -- beginning September 1, announced Medical Director William M. Kettyle.

"For some time we've been looking at how to reduce barriers to mental health services for MIT students," Dr. Kettyle said. "Removing the annual visit limit and improving the coverage from $50 per psychotherapy visit to unlimited coverage should make mental health care much more accessible for students with the Extended MIT Hospital Plan.

"This will result in a major improvement in access, but it's only one additional step toward making mental health services more available to the students of MIT," he continued. "In addition, we are looking for ways to improve outreach and to make sure we are available when help is needed.

"Perhaps we can encourage students to attack the issues of stress and depression with the same diligence they attack their problem sets, by using all of the best tools available, including talking to someone else. We're looking forward to receiving the recommendations of the Mental Health Task Force, and will continue to work to strengthen MIT Medical's Mental Health Service," Dr. Kettyle said.

The improved coverage for outpatient individual or group psychotherapy includes services by a licensed Massachusetts Blue Cross Blue Shield participating psychiatrist, psychologist, independent clinical social worker, mental health counselor or mental health clinical nurse specialist, when referred by MIT Medical's Mental Health Service.

Also effective September 1, the Extended Plan will improve inpatient coverage from 60 days to 120 days per benefit period.

Ellen Offner, MIT Medical's director of health plans and finance, said that it wasn't yet clear how much next year's Extended Plan rates would have to go up to help pay for the new benefits.

New state regulations require that student insurance plans offer improved mental health benefits, but only for a limited number of severe conditions; the law ignores the large group of patients with less severe issues. "We're going substantially beyond what the law requires, so that the new benefit will apply to all MIT students who enroll in the Extended Plan," Ms. Offner said.

This change is the second improvement in the Extended Plan outpatient mental health benefit this year.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 25, 2001.

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