Mental Health treatment gets an overall according to SebeliusHealth and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Friday morning that new rules will put teeth into the 2008 mental health equity law. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, which was signed by President George W. Bush, requires doctors and insurers to treat mental illness the same as physical illness.
Unfortunately, according to experts, the law has generally been ignored, and insurance companies have only partly adhered to the laws provisions. Assuming Obamacare ever gets off the ground, experts hope that its provisions, combined with the provisions outlined under the law, will help mental health disorders receive the same type of treatment and coverage that physical ailments receive.
What is the major complaint?
Up until now, private insurance companies often did not provide sufficient coverage for mental health disorders. Some covered it, but often insurance companies covered mental illness in a more limited fashion than physical illness. Now, the hope is that treatment will be more similar to treatment for physical ailments. For instance, not only will those with mental disorders not be denied coverage if their condition is considered a pre-existing condition, they also should not have their coverage terminated if they are diagnosed with a mental disorder.
Sebelius also noted that "People who have insurance coverage now and have no mental health coverage or where the Affordable Care Act fills in those gaps for people who have no insurance at all, they will be able to access affordable care with mental health and substance abuse benefits." She called this the "the largest expansion of behavioral health benefits in a generation."
Who will the new rules apply to? It will apply primarily to private insurance companies. The administration claims those on Medicaid should already be receiving treatment according to the law because the federal and state governments are providing information to them about how to follow the 2008 law.
Mental Health laws eliminate stigma of mental disorders
For years there has been a push to help people get help and destigmatize mental health disorders. This effort began in earnest years ago by former first lady Rosalynn Carter. In fact, experts contend the Mental Health Systems Act was passed in 1980 in large part due to her advocacy.
Advocates have long argued the state and federal government have not sufficiently provided a system to help prevent mental health disorders as well as create adequate care for those suffering from a debilitating mental disorder.
Although the announcement by Sebelius is great news for mental health patients, especially those who lacked sufficient help because they did not have health insurance, Obamacare has had a very poor roll-out, and it is yet to be seen if affordable insurance will be available for those who need it the most. Additionally, there is some concern that even if patients are able to get proper coverage, there may be a shortage of doctors who are able to treat them.