Understanding Insurance Coverage for PHP Treatment

Learn more about PHP insurance coverage and how to make sure your treatment is covered in this comprehensive article.

PHP and Insurance Variability

Partial hospitalization programs (PHP) offer a critical bridge in mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) treatment. They combine the rigor of inpatient treatment with the flexibility of outpatient services.

When it comes to accessing PHP services, PHP insurance coverage becomes a significant factor. Mental health care can be expensive, and without insurance, these costs can be prohibitive.

PHP Insurance Coverage - Understanding Insurance Coverage for PHP Treatment

What is PHP Insurance Coverage?

PHP insurance coverage refers to how much an insurance company will pay for PHP treatment. It depends on a person’s specific insurance plan. There can be significant variations in coverage between different plans and providers.

What Factors Can Affect PHP Insurance Coverage?

Several factors can affect how much coverage someone receives for PHP treatment. These include:

Type of Insurance Plan

Insurance plans differ in their coverage levels. HMOs (health maintenance organizations) often need referrals and may have specific network restrictions. 

PPOs (Preferred provider organizations) might offer more flexibility but with higher out-of-pocket costs.1


The state or region someone lives in can affect PHP insurance coverage. Different states have varying regulations and mandates about mental health coverage. This can impact what insurance providers are required to cover.

Provider Network

Insurance companies have networks of approved providers. Coverage is often more comprehensive if the PHP is within the insurer’s network. If someone chooses an out-of-network provider, their insurance company may cover less or none of the costs.

Key Policy Components Affecting PHP Insurance Coverage

Insurance policies can be complex and filled with unfamiliar terms. It’s important to read through the policy or contact the insurance provider to fully understand the details of coverage.
Here are some key components that can impact PHP insurance coverage:


The deductible is the amount someone pays for healthcare services before insurance begins to pay. When it comes to PHP insurance coverage, a high deductible plan means paying more out-of-pocket before insurance coverage kicks in.
For instance, if the deductible is $1,000, the person needs to pay that amount entirely out-of-pocket before their insurer covers a portion of the PHP costs.


Co-pay is a fixed amount someone pays for a healthcare service, often when they receive the service. The amount can vary depending on the type of service and the insurance plan. 

For example, insurance might require a certain copay for each day or session of PHP treatment.

Out-of-Pocket Maximums

After someone meets their deductible, insurance begins to cover part of the cost of healthcare services. However, they may still have out-of-pocket costs, like copays and coinsurance. The out-of-pocket maximum is the most someone will pay in a given year for covered healthcare services.
Once the person reaches that amount, insurance will cover any additional costs at 100%. This can be beneficial if they require ongoing PHP treatment, as out-of-pocket costs will eventually be covered in full.

Preauthorization Requirements

Patients need approval from their insurance provider before receiving certain healthcare services, including PHP treatment. This is known as preauthorization or prior authorization.2
Often, this process involves the PHP provider submitting a request to the insurance company. This request includes details about the patient’s medical condition and the proposed treatment plan, demonstrating the medical necessity of PHP.
If preauthorization is not obtained, the insurance company might refuse to cover the PHP treatment, leaving the patient with the full financial responsibility.

Understanding Eligibility for PHP Insurance Coverage: Criteria and Assessments

Insurance providers often cover treatments they deem “medically necessary.” Documentation from healthcare professionals can support the medical necessity of PHP treatment.
This can be done through:3
  • A detailed assessment of mental health history and symptoms
  • A physical examination to rule out any underlying medical conditions that may contribute to PHP treatment
  • An evaluation of how a person’s mental health affects their daily activities and ability to function in different settings
  • The proposed treatment plan for PHP is examined to ensure it aligns with the patient’s specific needs
  • Input from psychiatrists, therapists, or other mental health professionals who are familiar with the patient’s condition and history
Additionally, patients must meet certain criteria to be eligible for PHP insurance coverage. These criteria may include:

Severity of Condition

For a PHP, this often means having a severe mental illness that needs intensive treatment and cannot be managed through outpatient therapy alone.

This evaluation considers factors such as:
  • Diagnosis
  • Symptoms
  • Potential benefits from PHP treatment

Treatment History

The insurance provider may require evidence that the patient has tried other forms of treatment before approving PHP coverage. This is often referred to as “step therapy.”4
If the patient can demonstrate that these previous treatments were ineffective or resulted in adverse side effects, the insurance provider may consider PHP as a viable option.


There must be a reasonable expectation that the treatment will significantly improve the person’s condition or prevent deterioration. In this case, it would mean that PHP is more effective in treating the condition compared to other available options.

Ability to Participate

The patient must be able to actively take part in the PHP. This includes attending scheduled sessions and engaging in the therapeutic process.

Navigating Common Limitations and Exclusions in PHP Insurance Coverage

Insurance policies often come with certain limitations that can impact PHP insurance coverage. These are specific conditions under which the insurance may partially cover or not cover PHP services at all.
Here are some typical limitations one might encounter:

Duration Limits

There might be restrictions on the length of time for which PHP services are covered. For example, insurance may cover PHP care for a maximum of 30 days per year.

Sessions Limits

Policies may only cover a certain number of sessions per month or per year, regardless of medical necessity. The patient will then have to pay out-of-pocket for any additional sessions.

Specific Treatment Exclusions

Often, PHP insurance coverage does not include treatments that are deemed experimental or investigational. This means that if a treatment has not been extensively studied or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it may not be covered.

Provider Network Restrictions

Insurance may only cover PHP treatment if it is provided by a facility or professional within their network.

Geographical Limitations

Some insurance plans may have geographic restrictions, limiting coverage to PHP programs within a certain area.

Navigating the Insurance Process for PHP

Verifying PHP insurance coverage can be the first step in accessing these services. Here’s a straightforward guide to help navigate this process:

Review Insurance Policies

Start by reading over policy documents. Look for sections that discuss mental health services and PHP specifically. One will find details on limitations, any restrictions on providers or locations, and the cost-sharing arrangements.

Contact Insurance Providers

If you have any questions about your coverage, it’s best to contact your insurance company directly. They can provide more information on specific coverage for PHP services and help clarify any confusion or limitations in your policy.

Check Provider Coverage

Ensure that your preferred PHP facility or professional is covered by insurance. This can often be done by checking the provider directory on the insurance company’s website or calling their customer service line.

Gather Necessary Documents

Before starting PHP treatment, make sure to have all the necessary documents and forms filled out. These can include a referral from a primary care physician, medical records, and any necessary authorization for treatment.

Advocacy and Appeals in Insurance Denials for PHP Insurance Coverage

If an insurance provider denies coverage for PHP, don’t lose hope. Here’s how to advocate for yourself:

Understand the Reason for Denial

Request a detailed explanation of why PHP insurance coverage was denied. If the reason seems unclear or unfair, ask for a written copy of the insurance company’s medical necessity criteria and review it with your healthcare provider.

Gather Supporting Documentation

If you believe your insurance provider has made a mistake or misinterpreted your policy, gather any relevant documents that support your claim.
This could include:
  • Medical records
  • Letters from your healthcare provider
  • Evidence of similar cases where PHP care was approved

File an Appeal

Most insurance companies have a formal appeals process for denied claims. Follow the instructions provided by your insurance company and make sure to submit any necessary forms or documentation within the designated time frame. 

In general, the process may involve:

  • Providing additional documentation or justification for the treatment
  • Requesting an external review by a third-party organization
  • Appealing to your state’s insurance commissioner or department of insurance
The appeal process would take at least 3-5 weeks to complete. In the meantime, you may need to seek alternative funding or resources to cover PHP treatment.

Legal Framework Governing PHP Insurance Coverage

At the federal level, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has significantly expanded access to mental health services. This act mandates that most insurance plans, including those sold on health insurance marketplaces, cover mental health and substance use disorder services.5

State regulations can also impact PHP insurance coverage. Each state has its own insurance laws and mandates that can either complement or extend beyond federal requirements.

For instance, some states have specific mandates about the minimum number of PHP days that must be covered by insurance. As a result, the extent and nature of PHP insurance coverage can vary significantly based on where you live.

Understanding Parity Laws for PHP Coverage

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) also significantly governs PHP insurance coverage. Under MHPAEA, if an insurance plan covers PHP care, it must do so at the same level as it covers other medical and surgical procedures.6
This means that the financial requirements (like copays and deductibles) and treatment limitations (like the number of visits covered) for PHP care should be no more restrictive than those for other types of medical care.
Having said that, MHPAEA does not guarantee coverage for PHP treatment. It only ensures that if your insurance plan covers PHP, it must do so fairly and equally.

The Role of Insurance Advocates and Case Managers

If you struggle to get your PHP treatment covered by insurance, you can seek help from an insurance advocate or case manager.

Maximizing PHP Coverage Through Advocacy

An insurance advocate acts as a representative, communicating directly with insurance companies on your behalf.

Pinpointing Coverage Areas

They are well-versed in the subtleties of insurance policies and can pinpoint coverage areas that are relevant to your PHP. This expertise is particularly beneficial when there’s ambiguity or disputes about coverage.

Filing and Tracking Insurance Claims

A significant aspect of an insurance advocate’s job is to help file and track insurance claims. They ensure all necessary documentation is accurate and complete, aligning with the insurer’s requirements. This approach reduces the chances of claim denial due to administrative errors.

Negotiating Rates and Coverage

Insurance advocates are skilled negotiators. They can engage in discussions with insurers to push for better reimbursement rates or broader coverage, particularly if your initial claims encounter partial approval or denial.

Accessing and Utilizing Case Management Services

Case management services are central to efficiently managing PHP insurance coverage. Case managers are professionals who help coordinate care by liaising with healthcare providers, insurance companies, and other relevant entities.
To access these services, start by contacting your insurance provider. Ask if they have case management services as part of your plan. Many insurers have case managers with expertise in areas like a PHP.
Once connected with a case manager, they’ll work with you to understand your specific needs and circumstances. Their role is invaluable in ensuring coordination between different providers, making sure every aspect of your PHP is covered and your treatment plan is comprehensive.
Case managers also offer ongoing support throughout the duration of your PHP. They track your progress, adjust your care plan as needed, and make sure that your treatment aligns with your insurance coverage.
PHP Insurance Coverage - Understanding Insurance Coverage for PHP Treatment

Strategies for Uninsured Individuals

If you’re uninsured, there are several alternatives to traditional insurance for financing PHP. These options can provide a feasible pathway to receiving the care you need.

Sliding Scale Fees

Many PHP providers offer sliding scale fees based on income. This means the cost of the program is adjusted according to the patient’s ability to pay, making it more affordable for those with limited financial resources.

Payment Plans

You may be able to negotiate a plan that allows you to pay for treatment in smaller, more manageable installments.

Healthcare Credit Cards

These specialized credit cards are designed specifically for medical expenses. They often offer interest-free periods, making them a viable option for covering PHP costs upfront while you arrange for longer-term financing.

Charitable Organizations

There are nonprofit organizations and some providers offer financial aid through scholarships or grants for people who meet specific criteria. This may include income level, employment status, or demographic background.

Where to Find Financial Assistance

If you’re looking for financial help to cover PHP costs, begin by researching resources in your local community.
Some potential starting points include:7
  • Social service agencies like the United Way or the Department of Social Services
  • Nonprofit organizations dedicated to mental health advocacy and support
  • Faith-based organizations
  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) through your workplace, if applicable
  • Online databases, such as the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics (NAFC) or HealthWell Foundation
  • Asking your PHP provider for recommendations or assistance in finding resources

How Continuum Outpatient Center Can Help Navigate Your Insurance Coverage

At Continuum, we believe that everyone deserves access to quality mental health care. That’s why we strive to make our programs accessible and affordable for our clients.
If you are interested in joining our PHP but are unsure about your insurance coverage, don’t worry. Our kind and compassionate staff will work with you to understand your insurance benefits and provide you with a clear breakdown of any out-of-pocket costs.

We are also in-network with a variety of insurance providers, making it easier for you to access our services. Give us a call, and we’ll be happy to help you with any insurance-related questions or any concerns.

Questions About Treatment?
Reach out to our knowledgeable and compassionate Continuum Outpatient Center team for the guidance and support you need for sustainable recovery. We’re here to help you build a foundation for long-term happiness, wellness, and healing.