Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 Edges Closer

I spoke by telephone 2 years ago with former senator Pete Domenici who currently serves as a Senior Fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center.  He expressed regret that the bill he and Paul Wellstone drafted, pushed through committees, passed through congress and eventually saw signed into law by president Bush had languished through lack of policy definition by HHS.  After years of effort the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) is in effect.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced today “the largest behavioral health expansion in a generation”, with new requirements that health insurance companies treat mental illness and addiction the same as other illnesses.

Sebelius said the administration will post regulations Friday (11/8/13) requiring mental health parity. The new regulations will apply to both outpatient and residential treatment for mental health and addiction, which means patients would have the same deductible and co-payments applied to physical illnesses. Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed the the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, which “requires group health plans and health insurance issuers to ensure that financial requirements such as co-pays, deductibles and treatment limitations, such as visit limits” are no more restrictive for mental health or addiction than for physical ailments.

ASAM President, Dr. Stuart Gitlow said, “ASAM thanks the Administration for issuing regulations that bring us significantly closer to this reality.”

The final MHPAEA regulations apply to large employer-based plans and, as per the Affordable Care Act, all federally qualified health plans offered through the new health insurance marketplaces. The final rules do not apply to Medicare, Medicaid managed care or alternative benefit Medicaid plans.