In a move aimed at boosting mental health treatment, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Friday announced new rules that will put teeth in a 2008 mental health equity law.
The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, signed by President George W. Bush, requires doctors and insurers to treat mental illness the same as physical illness.
Sebelius made the announcement to applause at the Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy in Atlanta.
The move “finally puts mental health and behavioral health on equal footing,” Sebelius said.
On paper, the law made mental health more accessible, but there has been virtually no enforcement of it, said Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, president of the American Psychiatric Association and a Columbia University psychiatrist.
“Up to now, the law has not been complied with,” Lieberman said. “Companies have only sort of adhered to it.”
Insurance companies often cover mental illness in a more limited fashion than physical illness. Now the rule will require insurers to charge similar co-payments regardless if the treatment is for physical or mental health. Deductibles and doctor visits would also be equitable, and there would be parity in outpatient services and residential treatment.
Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education