Fri Apr 13, 2012, 01:07 PM
cbayer (141,917 posts)
Waiting for mental health parity
By Pete Domenici and Gordon H. Smith, Published: April 12
Pete Domenici, a former U.S. senator from New Mexico, is a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center. Gordon H. Smith, a former U.S. senator from Oregon, is president and chief executive of the National Association of Broadcasters.
Every day across the United States, families struggle with the challenges of mental illness or substance abuse. The 68 million Americans with these issues include people of all income levels, all races and all political affiliations. Mental illness does not discriminate.
Often, the difference between being overwhelmed as a family or meeting the challenges head-on and making progress against the illness can be just one factor: access to meaningful health insurance. Even those who think they have quality health coverage can be overwhelmed when a loved one receives a diagnosis of mental illness or is a substance abuser. They discover that their health insurance does not cover needed services or that the out-of-pocket expenses are prohibitive and significantly more than what is charged for physical ailments.
In 2008, Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. This law, which garnered bipartisan support, requires that large group health plans and Medicaid managed-care plans provide coverage for mental or substance-use disorders on par with the coverage offered for physical ailments. But when any law is passed, the federal government must implement and enforce it to make its benefits and provisions a reality.
President Obama voted for the bill as a U.S. senator, and all indications are that he remains supportive. Yet regulatory action has stalled since 2010. The final rule that would provide clarity to the millions who have a mental illness or substance-use disorder, and to their employers, has not been issued. This has created uncertainty and confusion for employers over what they must cover and when parity applies.
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