Reps. Tim Ryan, Napolitano, Barber, Tonko, and Lee Applaud Mental Health Parity Final Rule Implementation

Nov 8, 2013 Issues: Health Care

Washington DC - Today, Reps. Tim Ryan (OH-13), Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32),  Ron Barber (AZ-02), Paul Tonko (NY-20), and Barbara Lee (CA-13) applauded the Obama administration for issuing final regulations for the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA).

“Our continuing fight to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness has taken a critical step forward today,” Congresswoman Napolitano said. “Mental health parity ensures that Americans with mental health and addiction disorders will no longer be discriminated against by health care providers. I thank President Obama and his administration for doing the right thing in establishing long overdue equal access to these services for millions of individuals and their families.”

“Men and women suffering from substance abuse and mental health disorders have waited too long to receive the same quality care for their mental health treatment. This is a major step towards finally achieving equality in medical and mental health benefits,” said Congressman Tim Ryan. “The price of not treating all of those in need is too high—as we are painfully finding out. As Co-Chair of the Congressional Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus and Military Mental Health Caucus I am pleased that this final rule has been released and the guidance necessary to fully implement this law is finally available to the millions of Americans afflicted with mental health issues and substance abuse disorders.”

“All Americans deserve access to the mental health services they need," said Congressman Ron Barber. “For too long mental illness has not been given the same priority as physical illness. This final rule will ensure millions more get access to mental health care at the same level as other health benefits.”

“Today’s announcement brings fresh hope to individuals struggling with mental illness and substance abuse issues all across the country,” said Congressman Tonko. “With these final rules finally in place, insurance companies will no longer be able to stepchild mental health and substance abuse services. Moving forward, I will continue to work with the Administration to ensure that these regulations are enforced consistent with the full spirit of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act.”

“With today's final rule implementation of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Act, we are one step closer as a nation to ensuring that every American has access to comprehensive substance abuse and mental health treatment,” said Congresswoman Lee. “As a psychiatric social worker, I know how important quality health care is to individuals, families, and communities.”

The  MHPAEA was signed into law in 2008 and applies to large group health plans that provide mental health and substance use disorder benefits. The law ensures that mental health and substance use disorders are covered equal to other medical illnesses such as, diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, and other physical illnesses.

According to the National Institutes of Health, over 57.7 million Americans suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder. Access to equal mental health services is especially critical for returning Iraq and Afghanistan military service members, especially since over 70% of National Guardsmen and Reservists receive care in the private sector. Mental disorders currently serve as the leading cause of disability in the United States and amount to $193 billion annually in lost earnings.

The passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), signed into law in 2010, also strengthens and expands the provisions within the MHPAEA. The ACA ensures that pre-existing conditions will not prevent people from seeking coverage and guarantees parity. Mental health and substance use disorder services are part of ten essential benefits categories included in the ACA. Under this essential benefits rule, it is mandatory that individual and small group health plans comply with these parity regulations.

Background:

  • One out of every five Americans will suffer from some type of mental illness at least once in their lifetime (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Report)
  • 70% of adolescents with mental health problems do not receive care (Journal of Adolescent Health, volume 38)
  • The U.S. military loses 25 soldiers to suicide for every soldier lost in combat (New York Times)

Final Rule factsheet may be viewed here.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

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