Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Mental Health Advocates Rejoice as Health Insurance Discrimination May End

White House Is Last Stop

The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law-the leading national legal-advocacy organization representing individuals with mental disabilities--salutes Congress for passing mental health and addiction parity legislation."After years of debate and discrimination, the door to equitable coverage ofmental health services is open at last," said psychologist Robert Bernstein,the Center's executive director.

The Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of2008 ends differing coverage by health insurance for the millions of childrenand adults who require mental health and addiction treatment. Many havedelayed or avoided seeking treatment because of high out-of pocket costs andinequitable treatment restrictions."Parity is essential for a healthy nation," said Bernstein.

"The Equity Actwill lower the barriers to mental health care that have led to a host ofadverse outcomes, including custody relinquishment to get access to care for achild, school failure and even suicide."The law passed today provides parity between medical-surgical and mental healthand addiction benefits in plans that offer mental health coverage.

When signedby the President, it will prohibit health insurance plans sponsored bybusinesses with 50 or more employees from imposing day and visit limits orapplying different deductibles, co-payments, out-of-network charges and otherfinancial requirements for treatment.

The Equity Act builds on the 1996 ParityAct, which provided limited parity for lifetime and annual dollar limits.

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