The vast majority of Americans are unfamiliar with new insurance requirements for mental health care and that could explain why many people don’t seek treatment, a new survey suggests.

In a poll of 2,940 adults conducted by the American Psychological Association and Harris Interactive in December, 87 percent said they were not familiar with a recently enacted federal law beefing up mental health coverage.

Under the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, health insurers are required to apply the same coverage limits and payment requirements for mental health treatment that govern other types of medical services. In the past, a trip to the psychiatrist, for example, frequently incurred a higher co-pay or was subject to limits that differed from those for physical ailments.

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The new rules apply to large group insurance plans that include mental health coverage.

“Laws alone have clearly not been enough to put parity into full use. Our survey shows that too few Americans are aware of these new rights and too many people have avoided treatment because of costs,” said psychologist Katherine Nordal, executive director for professional practice at the American Psychological Association.

In the survey, 56 percent of respondents pointed to cost as a reason that they or a family member might not seek treatment for a mental health issue.