Mental Health and Substance Abuse Parity
Mental health parity demands equal treatment for both physical and mental ailments. At present, many health plans unfairly treat coverage for mental health benefits by imposing co-payments, deductibles or limits on outpatient visits that are more restrictive than those placed on physical illness. Were insurance companies to limit the treatment of asthma, diabetes, or cancer patients, we would be outraged. However, health plans routinely do limit access to necessary mental health treatment.
The Mental Health Parity Act was signed into law in October 2008, intended to end health insurance benefits’ inequity between mental health/substance abuse disorders and medical/surgical benefits for group health plans. The Act requires a group health plan of 51 or more employees to benefits ensure that financial requirements and treatment limitations applicable to mental health/substance use disorder benefits are no more restrictive than the predominant requirements and limitations on substantially all medical/surgical benefits.
The Affordable Care for America Act and Mental Health
In March 2009, Congress passed into law the Affordable Care for America Act, known more universally as the health insurance reform law. Numerous mental health advocacy organizations were intricately involved. The law
- Makes significant improvements to Medicaid including expanding the number of people who can qualify for the extensive mental health services Medicaid covers,
- Improves coordination of primary care and mental health services for people using the public mental health system,
- Encourages inpatient medical facilities that address a person’s total health care needs, including mental health and substance abuse needs,
- Greatly improves a Medicaid state option for home and community based services for people with disabilities, including those with serious mental illnesses, and
- Expands Medicaid’s focus on home and community based care in several ways.
For more information, please visit the National Association on Mental Illness.