White House Slow To Issue ACA Regulations on Mental Health Law
The Affordable Care Act includes provisions that strengthen the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Act, but the Obama administration has yet to issue final rules enabling states to enforce the requirements, Stateline/Kaiser Health News reports.
The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Act is a 2008 law requiring that most insurers offer the same level of coverage for mental health care and substance abuse treatments as other medical care.
Like the 2008 law, the ACA will not require all health plans to offer behavioral health coverage, but the health reform law requires plans participating in its health insurance exchanges to eventually offer mental health coverage.
According to Stateline/KHN, some states -- including Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Oregon and Vermont -- already have enacted their own laws to strengthen the 2008 law's requirement, but those statutes do not cover all health insurance plans.
Former Reps. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) and James Ramstad (R-Minn.), two vocal proponents of the 2008 law, have been hosting meetings nationwide where mental health experts and patients are testifying in support of the law.
Kennedy said the meetings are intended to secure more support for the law and push the Obama administration to move on issuing the final regulations that strengthen it. "A law without rules isn't worth the paper it's written on, and what that means is that insurance companies can continue to do business as usual," he said.
Once the final rules are implemented, insurers are expected to be prohibited from:
- Imposing stricter spending limits on mental health or addiction benefits than they do on medical and surgical benefits;
- Limiting the frequency or duration of mental health treatment more than they do for other care; and
- Allowing separate deductibles or stricter authorization rules for mental health and addiction benefits.
Andrew Sperling with the National Alliance on Mental Illness said most insurers already have stopped charging separate deductibles and imposing unequal spending limits.
However, many still do not provide coverage for mental health and addiction treatment at non-hospital facilities and exclude certain types of treatment for such beneficiaries, Sperling said (Ollove, Stateline/Kaiser Health News, 12/2).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.