Patients’ Rights

You may have heard a lot of talk about proposals to enact a “bill of rights” for health care consumers (all of us at one time or another).  There have been efforts at the national level to legislate such ‘rights,’ and this has been done by executive order for those covered by federal health plans.

Mental health professionals are ‘out in front’ on this issue.  We have for years maintained the highest level of respect, dignity, confidentiality, and ethics relative to those we serve.  In addition to professional associations’ codes of ethics, these principles have been codified in a “Bill of Rights” for consumers of mental health services and endorsed as of December 26, 2007 by the Supporting Groups listed below.

I aspire to use these principles in all my interactions with my clients.  I want you to know you should expect nothing less from any mental health professional who works with you, or from insurers who covers your care.

Principles for the Provision of Mental Health and
Substance Abuse Treatment Services

Our commitment is to provide quality mental health and substance abuse services to all individuals without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, gender, age, sexual orientation, or disabilities.

1. Right to Know Benefits
Individuals have the right to be provided information from the purchasing entity (such as employer or union or public purchaser) and the insurance/third party payer describing the nature and extent of their mental health and substance abuse treatment benefits.  This information should include details on procedures to obtain access to services, on utilization management procedures, and on appeal rights.  The information should be presented clearly in writing with language that the individual can understand.

2. Professional Expertise
Individuals have the right to receive full information from the potential treating professional about that professional’s knowledge, skills, preparation, experience, and credentials.  Individuals have the right to be informed about the options available for treatment interventions and the effectiveness of the recommended treatment.

3. Contractual Limitations
Individuals have the right to be informed by the treating professional of any arrangements, restrictions, and/or covenants established between third party payer and the treating professional that could interfere with or influence treatment recommendations.  Individuals have the right to be informed of the nature of information that may be disclosed for the purposes of paying benefits.

4. Appeals and Grievances
Individuals have the right to receive information about the methods they can use to submit complaints or grievances regarding provision of care by the treating professional to that profession’s regulatory board and to the professional association.

Individuals have the right to be provided information about the procedures they can use to appeal benefit utilization decisions to the third party payer systems, to the employer or purchasing entity, and to external regulatory entities.

5. Confidentiality
Individuals have the right to be guaranteed the protection of the confidentiality of their relationship with their mental health and substance abuse professional, except when laws or ethics dictate otherwise.  Any disclosure to another party will be time limited and made with the full written, informed consent of the individuals.

Individuals shall not be required to disclose confidential, privileged or other information other than:  diagnosis, prognosis, type of treatment, time and length of treatment, and cost.

Entities receiving information for the purposes of benefits determination, public agencies receiving information for health care planning, or any other organization with legitimate right to information will maintain clinical information in confidence with the same rigor and be subject to the same penalties for violation as is the direct provider of care.

Information technology will be used for transmission, storage, or data management only with methodologies that remove individual identifying information and assure the protection of the individual’s privacy. Information should not be transferred, sold or otherwise utilized.

6. Choice

Individuals have the right to choose any duly licensed/certified professional for mental health and substance abuse services.  Individuals have the right to receive full information regarding the education and training of professionals, treatment options (including risks and benefits), and cost implications to make an informed choice regarding the selection of care deemed appropriate by individual and professional.

7. Determination of Treatment

Recommendations regarding mental health and substance abuse treatment shall be made only by a duly licensed/certified professional in conjunction with the individual and his or her family as appropriate.  Treatment decisions should not be made by third party payers.  The individual has the right to make final decisions regarding treatment.

8. Parity

Individuals have the right to receive benefits for mental health and substance abuse treatment on the same basis as they do for any other illnesses, with the same provisions, co-payments, lifetime benefits, and catastrophic coverage in both insurance and self-funded/self-insured health plans.

9. Discrimination

Individuals who use mental health and substance abuse benefits shall not be penalized when seeking other health insurance or disability, life or any other insurance benefit.

10. Benefit Usage

The individual is entitled to the entire scope of the benefits within the benefit plan that will address his or her clinical needs.

11. Benefit Design
Whenever both federal and state law and/or regulations are applicable, the professional and all payers shall use whichever affords the individual the greatest level of protection and access.

12. Treatment Review

To assure that treatment review processes are fair and valid, individuals have the right to be guaranteed that any review of their mental health and substance abuse treatment shall involve a professional having the training, credentials and licensure required to provide the treatment in the jurisdiction in which it will be provided.  The reviewer should have no financial interest in the decision and is subject to the section on confidentiality.

13. Accountability

Treating professionals may be held accountable and liable to individuals for any injury caused by gross incompetence or negligence on the part of the professional.  The treating professional has the obligation to advocate for and document necessity of care and to advise the individual of options if payment authorization is denied.

Payers and other third parties may be held accountable and liable to individuals for any injury caused by gross incompetence or negligence or by their clinically unjustified decisions.

Participating Groups
American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (membership: 25,000)

American Counseling Association (membership: 56,000)

American Family Therapy Academy (membership: (1,000)

American Nurses Association (membership: 180,000)

American Psychological Association (membership: 151,000)

American Psychiatric Association (membership: 42,000)

American Psychiatric Nurses Association (membership: 3,000)

National Association of Social Workers (membership: 155,000)

National Federation of Societies for Clinical Social Work (membership: 11,000)

Supporting Groups
National Mental Health Association

American Group Psychotherapy Association

American Psychoanalytic Association

National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors

National Depressive and Manic Depressive Association

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