Monday, December 9, 2013

Experts Say More Work Still Needs to Be Done After Issuance of Final Parity Rule

At a unique “stakeholders” meeting convened by APA in Washington, D.C., in the wake of the government’s release of the final rule for implementing the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA), former member of Congress Patrick Kennedy told participants that the fight for parity is not over. “So many people have worked so many years to get us this far, but we are starting all over again," he said. “The new mission is oversight and implementation and enforcement of the MHPAEA. The last thing we need to do is let up on the momentum now because we have lulled ourselves into a false sense of security that somehow we have done it. Until this is written into the hearts and minds of practitioners across the whole spectrum of mental health and substance use, and until it is written into the hearts and minds of the American people that this is something they should expect when they seek care, then we still have work to do... We are here to discuss the mechanics of a law and its regulations, but I hope you are all aware that this is a civil-rights issue.”

The meeting brought together more than 35 groups representing psychiatry, addiction medicine, other medical fields, social work, psychology, and patient-advocacy groups to discuss the final rule and develop an action plan around three core issues related to implementation of the MHAPEA: education, compliance/disclosure/enforcement, and issues related to Medicaid and the SCHIP program. (The final rule does not extend to Medicaid and SCHIP.)

APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A., emphasized the need for unity across all disciplines in helping to ensure enforcement of the parity law; he also especially emphasized that substance abuse and addictions are to be included in parity coverage. And the South African-born Levin also used the occasion—the day after the death of Nelson Mandela—to commemorate the antiapartheid leader and said Mandela served as a model for how to stand up against discrimination. 

APA President Jeffrey Lieberman, M.D., told representatives that the present time marks a pivotal moment in history for the equitable treatment of patients with mental illness and substance abuse. “We are at the best time ever in terms of being able to provide care…and at this point, we are really uniquely advantaged in terms of possibilities…. We have a tremendous research capacity we have never had before, and it is progressing at an accelerated rate. We have tremendous prospects…. It’s up to all of us to make the most of [this moment].”

To watch a video of Lieberman discussing the meeting, click here.

(photo: David Hathcox)


The content of Psychiatric News does not necessarily reflect the views of APA or the editors. Unless so stated, neither Psychiatric News nor APA guarantees, warrants, or endorses information or advertising in this newspaper. Clinical opinions are not peer reviewed and thus should be independently verified.