The Obama administration will announce a new regulation Friday that would require insurance companies to treat mental health and substance abuse coverage the same way they cover physical ailments. A big deal!
An unnamed official spoke with the Washington Post, writing in an email that its "part of a larger effort to increase access to affordable mental health services and reduce the stigma 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."
The regulation will require insurance companies to make their co-pays and deductibles for visiting a psychologist or entering a substance abuse treatment center the same as they would be for any other physician. The ruling is an addition to the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act that was passed in 2008. The Mental Health Parity Act as it was written then only applied for large insurance companies and plans, but the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 has meant that those people covered by small insurance companies will also have this insurance parity, explains the Minnesota Post. This new ruling clarifies that requirement.
According to the the New York Times, this change is "seen as critical to President Obama's program for curbing gun violence by addressing an issue on which there is bipartisan agreement: Making treatment more available to those with mental illness could reduce killings, including mass murders."
Of course, the insurance companies aren't pleased; they're worried about having to pay for long, inpatient treatment of people dealing with mental illness or substance abuse, even though that type of treatment is rarely needed. What if insurance companies did things because they were good for people, not because of money? Would they be more popular and have more customers? Who can even imagine that alternative universe.
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