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Thursday, October 7, 2010

New Laws Expand Mental Health, Addiction Treatment

Anyone who has suffered from addiction or is currently in the grips of their addiction that has sought treatment for their problem may have found that health insurance typically will refuse to pay for most of their treatment and/or therapy. Health insurance has long been known to place less emphasis on mental ailments than for physical maladies, this gap in coverage has severely hindered those individuals who wanted to be free from addiction. Most treatment facilities are costly and the reality of paying out of pocket for treatment is simply impossible for most addicts. Fortunately, times are changing and the dream of being able to afford adequate treatment for addiction may soon be a possibility as new policies require health insurance companies to treat mental disorders and addiction the same as any other health problem.

"Two federal laws that provide better insurance coverage for more people with mental health and substance abuse conditions are just beginning to take effect, and advocates describe the changes as a huge win for consumers that will greatly improve treatment", according to KHN. Patrick Kennedy, son of the late Ted Kennedy, along with others, worked for years to end the disparity between different types of care that would be covered by one's insurance company. This year the new Mental Health Parity and Addiction Treatment Act, went into effect, requiring health insurance companies to treat mental health and substance abuse the same way they would any other health problem, coverage has to be equally generous under the new act. There will no longer be separate co-payment, deductibles, and visit limitations for mental health care. The law does away with different co-payments, deductibles and visit restrictions.

"These financial equalizers will be very helpful to families that have not been able to access care before," says Katherine Nordal, executive director for professional practice at the American Psychological Association. The Parity Act is still a baby and it is still possible that insurance companies will be able to find a way around the new laws, but, it is clear health care might be heading in the right direction. There are still many aspects about the new act that need to be hashed out as implementation goes into effect. MSNBC reported that, "advocates say they are pleased on the whole with the new laws. But they are watching closely to see whether plans try to erect roadblocks to treatment by claiming it's not medically necessary, for example, or requiring that someone get preapproved before receiving services, says Andrew Sperling, director of legislative advocacy for the National Alliance on Mental Illness".

Receiving coverage for treatment for any medical ailment should be a right that everyone is entitled to and under the new act insurance companies will have a much harder time sweeping mental health patients under the rug. However, we need to keep in mind that this is just one step, although a big one, along the road to fair treatment, but, in the next five to ten years it seems like health insurance will have to make some major changes to meet the new requirements they have been tasked with.

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