Recently, the Obama Administration released the final rule increasing parity between mental health/substance use disorder benefits and medical/surgical benefits in group and individual health plans.
Passage of the new mental health parity regulations is another step in the right direction toward ending insurance discrimination against those seeking treatment for mental health and substance use disorders. Nevertheless, this effort falls short since insurance companies are only required to offer mental health benefits equal to medical and surgical benefits when mental health services may require ongoing therapy and outpatient treatment.
The biggest challenge, however, is that many individuals seeking mental healthcare are faced with exorbitant out-of-pocket costs since many private practices refuse to accept private insurance coverage. What we need to see is increased funding for mental health programs and more community resources for treating mental health issues. For example, Obamacare requires private insurance plans on its statewide marketplaces to cover mental health services as part of its 'essential health benefits.'
We also need to see a change in the confidentiality and involuntary commitment statutes; these laws must include family members who want to get help for their loved ones and want to work with the treatment team towards stabilization but are shut down and turned away. The stigma associated with having a mental health issue, the lack of funding and resources and the high out-of-pocket costs all contribute to the fact that many Americans are unable to access the care they so desperately need.
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