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January 1st, 2010, The Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Party and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 was passed as part of the economic stimulus package affecting millions of Americans for the better. Reported by Samhsa (Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration) News, the Act is considered a “landmark legislation” ending discrimination for mental health and substance abuse treatment in many health insurance plans. In layman’s terms, consumers are given better access to the care they need and want!
April 7th, 2010-
In the past mental health and substance abuse have been treated as what some may call second class citizens, taking the back seat to other services. On account of the recently passed Equity Act, those seeking help for mental or substance abuse treatment will receive assistance in two primary areas; financial requirement and treatment limitations.
Financially, requirements such as copayments, deductibles, out of pocket limits, etc. will be rendered the same for both mental health/substance abuse services as medical and surgical services. Consequently, the number of visits allowed per service will no longer be restricted in the mental health and substance abuse fields on account of the Equity Act regulations.
Furthermore, it is now mandated that insurers offer both mental health and substance abuse benefits in any of the classes in which medical and surgical benefits are being offered. No longer are the days of only inpatient mental and substance abuse services being offered, when offering the gamut of inpatient, outpatient, prescription and emergency care services on the medical side, thus contributing to closing the gap between the two. However, smaller insurers and companies (those with 50 or fewer employees) may be exempt from the newly passed law, hence it is important to find out where your insurance carrier stands in order to reap the Acts full benefits.
Passing the law, however, does not solve the problem of discrimination amongst the mental health and substance abuse services world. The first step to closing the gap entirely is education! It is up to providers to make sure everyone is familiar with the law and its new found provisions. Nonetheless, the parity law is a huge step for those in the mental health services and receiving mental health and substance abuse services, consequently creating awareness and making needed services more accessible, especially if implemented correctly.
*For more information on the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, please visit: http://samhsa.gov/samhsaNewsletter/Volume_18_Number_1/Parity.aspx, for which this article was based on.