After years of waiting, the Obama administration has finally solidified the rules for the 1996 and 2008 health laws in relation to the Mental Health Parity Law. Mental health patients will now be able to seek full treatment under Obamacare.
Why did it take Obama so long to clarify the rules so that mental health and substance abuse sufferers could receive adequate treatment on par with those suffering physical illnesses?
Rebecca Adams, of CQ HealthBeat, says, “You have to remember that this was happening at the same time that the administration is dealing with its number one priority, which is standing up the new marketplaces and implementing the 2010 health care law.”
With the first passage of the Mental Health Parity Law in 1996, and then the expansion of the rules in 2008 to include those suffering substance abuse, the year 2013 will be known as the year mental health and substance abuse patients can be free to make appointments without worrying whether their health insurance will cover their treatment. Co-pays and deductibles will not be higher than they would be for physical illnesses, and patients can rest assured they can seek treatment for as long as needed, as insurers will not be allowed to limit the number of treatment visits.
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website states:
In January, as part of the President and Vice President’s plan to reduce gun violence, the Administration committed to finalize this rule as part of a larger effort to increase access to affordable mental health services and reduce the misinformation associated with mental illness. As the President and Vice President have made clear, mental illness should no longer be treated by our society – or covered by insurance companies – differently from other illnesses.
This new revision of the Mental Health Parity Law is a relief for patients suffering from mental health and substance abuse issues. With the new rules now in place, perhaps the stigma of coping with mental illness will lift, and patients will not fear judgment from insurance companies or even their doctors.
Insurers are now required to clearly explain mental health care benefits to patients and to allow them to file appeals if their doctors do not comply with their need for such treatment. The new rules also forbid discrimination against patients seeking mental health or substance abuse treatment.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says the mental health care rule will bring relief for those suffering in silence. “Imagine what it would mean if people felt as comfortable saying they were going for counseling as they do saying they’re going for a flu shot or physical therapy,” Sebelius said.
By Juana Poareo