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Insurance Must Cover Mental Health, Substance Abuse Just Like Physical Illness: Kathleen Sebelius

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The Obama administration announced new rules on Friday that will require insurers to cover the treatment of mental health and substance abuse in the same manner they would physical maladies.

The regulations, unveiled by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, would cover "most" of the 85 percent of Americans who have health insurance, according to The New York Times.

"This is the largest expansion of behavioral health coverage in a generation," Sebelius said during a keynote speech at the Carter Center in Atlanta on Friday morning. "The rule is a reality in part because of the leadership of President Obama, who was committed to getting this done this year."

From The Times:

According to administration officials, the rule would ensure that health plans’ co-payments, deductibles and limits on visits to health care providers are not more restrictive or less generous for mental health benefits than for medical and surgical benefits.

[…][T]reatment for mental health and substance abuse is among 10 categories of benefits considered essential and thus mandatory in plans marketed in the new exchanges to individuals and small groups. Although many insurers already provide extensive mental health coverage, some have found ways to get around existing rules and to deny payment for treatment, or to otherwise limit the benefits.

The regulations were originally passed by Congress in the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, and signed into law by George W. Bush in 2008.

The Obama Administration's announcement marks the first real effort of enforcement since the law's passage. The rules are considered a key piece of the White House's efforts to reduce gun violence in the wake of several deadly shooting sprees across the country.

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