Feds boosting mental health access, treatment - KiiiTV.com South Texas, Corpus Christi, Coastal Bend

Feds boosting mental health access, treatment

Posted:

By Jen Christensen

(CNN) -- In a move aimed at boosting mental health treatment, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Friday announced new rules that will put teeth in a 2008 mental health equity law.

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, signed by President George W. Bush, requires doctors and insurers to treat mental illness the same as physical illness.

Sebelius made the announcement to applause at the Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy in Atlanta.

The move "finally puts mental health and behavioral health on equal footing," Sebelius said.

On paper, the law made mental health more accessible, but there has been virtually no enforcement of it, said Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, president of the American Psychiatric Association and a Columbia University psychiatrist.

"Up to now, the law has not been complied with," Lieberman said. "Companies have only sort of adhered to it."

 Insurance companies often cover mental illness in a more limited fashion than physical illness.

"Many private insurers gave nothing. Some provided benefits, but they were limited and inadequate," Lieberman said. The law, the new rules and provisions of Obamacare combined will ensure mental and physical illness would be covered similarly.

For example, insurance companies can no longer authorize a 30-day hospital stay for a stroke and only a two-day stay in the hospital for someone who has had a psychotic break.

In addition, people with pre-existing mental conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or depression will no longer be denied insurance coverage -- and under Obamacare, a mental illness diagnosis will no longer trigger a potential loss of coverage.

The "incredibly important law, combined with the Affordable Care Act, will expand and protect behavioral health benefits for more than 62 million Americans," Sebelius said. "People who either have insurance coverage now and have no mental health coverage or where the Affordable Care Act fills in those gaps for people who have no insurance at all, they will be able to access affordable care with mental health and substance abuse benefits."

She called it "the largest expansion of behavioral health benefits in a generation."

Now that the final rules have been announced, Lieberman argues there needs to be "more transparency and means of enforcement. Or how do you know private insurers will comply?"

Friday's announcement applies to private insurance. The rules do not apply to people on Medicaid because the Obama administration has already given states guidance on how those plans should be meeting requirements set out by the 2008 law.

The Georgia setting for Sebelius' announcement seems particularly appropriate as an acknowledgement of former first lady Rosalynn Carter's long efforts to destigmatize mental illness.

Carter is the author of a handful of books on the topic, and the Mental Health Systems Act was passed in 1980 in large part due to her advocacy. The law provided more funding for community-based care and created a system of prevention services and an advocate system for those who struggle with mental illness.

That law also had a parity provision that was never enforced, Sebelius said Carter had told her. "Finally, in 2013, we are achieving this," she said.
   
 CNN's Caleb Hellerman and Trisha Henry contributed to this report.
   
 The-CNN-Wire
 ™ & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.
 

  • Mostafa Remembered

    Mostafa Remembered

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 11:51 PM EDT2014-04-24 03:51:27 GMT
    The beloved owner of the Tim's Market on Ayers and Brownlee, 59-year-old Ben Mostafa, was remembered at a memorial service Wednesday evening. Mostafa was shot and killed in his store during a robbery back on April 14th.More >>
    The beloved owner of the Tim's Market on Ayers and Brownlee, 59-year-old Ben Mostafa, was remembered at a memorial service Wednesday evening. Mostafa was shot and killed in his store during a robbery back on April 14th.More >>
  • Services Held for Well-Known Businessman Benjamin Mustafa

    Services Held for Well-Known Businessman Benjamin Mustafa

    Family, friends and community members came together Wednesday evening to remember 59-year old Benjamin Mustafa, the victim of this city's latest homicide.A memorial was held for the beloved and well-known businessman, who was fatally shot last week at the Tim's Market on Ayers Street. Services took place at the Bay Area Fellowship on Rodd Field Road.Kiii News Reporter Bill Churchwell went Live from the memorial services with more information.To many, he was simply known as Ben, or Benjamin, a...More >>
    Family, friends and community members came together Wednesday evening to remember 59-year old Benjamin Mustafa, the victim of this city's latest homicide.A memorial was held for the beloved and well-known businessman, who was fatally shot last week at the Tim's Market on Ayers Street. Services took place at the Bay Area Fellowship on Rodd Field Road.Kiii News Reporter Bill Churchwell went Live from the memorial services with more information.To many, he was simply known as Ben, or Benjamin, a...More >>
  • Students Bound for Rome to Witness Canonization Ceremony

    Students Bound for Rome to Witness Canonization Ceremony

    Some lucky Coastal Bend residents, including students and teachers from John Paul II High School, are on their way to Rome to witness history.Pope John Paul II will be canonized on Sunday, and our own citizen reports from John Paul II High School will be there to watch. About 70 members of the community boarded buses Wednesday morning heading for Houston, where they will catch a plane to Rome.Pope John Paul II and Pope John the 23rd will be proclaimed saints at the ceremony at the Vatican Sun...More >>
    Some lucky Coastal Bend residents, including students and teachers from John Paul II High School, are on their way to Rome to witness history.Pope John Paul II will be canonized on Sunday, and our own citizen reports from John Paul II High School will be there to watch. About 70 members of the community boarded buses Wednesday morning heading for Houston, where they will catch a plane to Rome.Pope John Paul II and Pope John the 23rd will be proclaimed saints at the ceremony at the Vatican Sun...More >>
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and KIII. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.