Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Parity Law Anniversary Celebrated, but Final Rule for Enforcement Still Not in Place

Five years ago this month, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) became law after years of efforts by APA and other groups to convince Congress to pass such protections for mental health care. At the time of its passage, the landmark legislation was hailed as promising to end discrimination in insurance coverage against those with mental illness. Yet today a Final Rule from the federal government providing regulatory guidance for enforcement of the law is yet to be issued (it is expected later this year), and in the meantime insurance companies have found a variety of ways to circumvent the law.

“Five years after the passage of the MHPAEA, we have yet to realize the goal of this legislation,” said APA President Jeffrey Lieberman, M.D. “While its passage was a historic milestone—much like the Community Mental Health Act legislation in 1963—the promise of the MHPAEA remains unfulfilled and will until the Final Rule for its implementation is issued and we are assured of its enforcement. We are grateful for these seminal legislative efforts, which like the civil-rights and voting-rights acts have the potential for transformative change in our society, but will not be satisfied until this law becomes our reality.”

Former congressional representative Patrick Kennedy, who with his late father, Sen. Edward Kennedy, helped pass the law, issued a statement echoing Lieberman's urgency. “With health exchanges taking root in all 50 states, we can’t wait another moment for the final rule on this law, which helps to remove the arbitrary distinctions between the brain and the body...when it comes to health care," Kennedy said. "With the Affordable Care Act taking effect, a generation of veterans returning home, many struggling from brain injuries sustained in combat, a suicide epidemic, and far-too-frequent gun violence, we have an urgent need and a tremendous opportunity to finally achieve mental health parity and eliminate the discrimination experienced by people with mental illness.”

For information on legal actions APA has taken against alleged MHPAEA violations by insurance companies, see the Psychiatric News articles, "Court to Hear Case Alleging Parity Law Violation" and "APA, Connecticut Psychiatrists Protest Insurer Practices." For more on the parity law, see the commentary "What Do We Expect From Parity?" in the October Psychiatric Services. 

Join the parity conversation on Twitter by using #mhparity

(Image: Emilie Zhang/shutterstock.com)



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