New Rules Could Mean Greater Access to Mental Health Services
COLUMBIA - New rules to an existing law could mean greater insurance coverage for mental health and substance abuse services. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced new provisions Friday for the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, passed in 2008. The law requires insurance companies to cover mental health services, such as psychiatric screenings, equally to physical health services.
"Just think for a moment how different things would be if everyone felt like they can access treatment without the fear of being judged," Sebelius said at the Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy in Atlanta. "Imagine what it would mean if people felt as comfortable going for counseling as they do saying they are going for a flu shot or physical therapy."
The new rules would clarify the policy on outpatient mental health treatment, and increase transparency on the part of health insurance providers to inform customers of the law. The existing 2008 law does not require health insurance plans to offer coverage of mental health services. However, it requires plans that do offer coverage of those services to make similar co-payments for them as they would payments for physical injuries or illnesses.
"Nine in 10 Americans with substance abuse disorders don't receive the care they need," Sebelius said. "Sixty percent of Americans with a mental health condition don't receive the care they need. That's the snapshot of 2013 in America."
"The part that we still have to overcome is the stigma," Missouri Department of Mental Illness officer Debra Walker said. She added public education of mental illness needs to increase before the issue can be treated effectively.
It would be "really difficult" to find a person anywhere who doesn't know someone with a mental health issue, Walker said.