Ethical and Legal Issues in Diagnosis

There are certainly some potential issues that need to be addressed when balancing desires of managed care and the ethical diagnosis and treatment of individuals entrusted to our care.  First among my concerns are situations where an individual is in obvious need of treatment but the necessary treatment falls outside of managed care coverage.  This may occur because they do not fit the standard illness category or because treatment recommendations fall outside of what the managed care organization deems the best course of action.  “Many insurance carriers will not pay for treatment that is not defined as an ‘illness’ for which treatment is medically necessary.”  (Corey, Schneider-Corey, & Callanan, 2007, p. 427)

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This may tempt a clinician to engage in some unethical and inaccurate diagnosis practices in effort to get the client the help they need.  I believe most clinicians would do this out of what they consider to be the best interest of the individual clients themselves.  However, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  (Kristian Delaney, personal communication) “Under no circumstances should clinicians compromise themselves regarding the accuracy of a diagnosis to make it ‘fit’ criteria accepted by an insurance company.”  (Corey et al., 2007, p. 427-428)

Personally, I see some benefits to managed care that I think we as practitioners sometimes choose to neglect.  Honestly, even if therapy was covered just by my insurance, EAP (managed care) usually provides 6 sessions every year with zero deductible.  We use them every year without fail, and there are some situations where we use them “just because they are there…”  If they cost us anything, even a deductible… we probably wouldn’t utilize the sessions.  Although I think the short sessions do frustrate some practitioners, especially those who have to deal with extremely complex situations in as little as 6 sessions… I think the primary source of frustration is the paperwork!  From what I gather, submitting paperwork for reimbursement to some of these managed care organizations (Magellan, etc) is a real pain.  I don’t understand why they have to make it so difficult… I don’t think there’s any situation where we should spend more time on paperwork than we do with clients.

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Corey, G., Schneider-Corey, M., & Callanan, P. (2007). Issues and ethics in the helping professions (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.

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