Effective Implementation, Public Education Efforts Keys to Success of Mental Health Parity Law
Legislation Recognizes Mental Health Central to Overall Health; Presents Platform for Health Reform Efforts
Contact: Steve Vetzner,(703) 797-2588, firstname.lastname@example.org
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (May 5, 2009)-Effective implementation and public education efforts on the benefits of treating mental health and substance use conditions are critical to the success of mental health parity legislation passed by Congress last fall, Mental Health America said today.
In an article published today in a special thematic issue on mental health of the journal Health Affairs, "After Parity-What's Next," representatives of Mental Health America say passage of the parity law strengthens the movement to recognize that mental health is integral to overall health and raises the importance of integration as part of health reform proposals.
"As the nation enters serious debate about reforming our health care system, passage of the [legislation] provides a platform for the full and effective integration of behavioral health services into the heart of reform strategies that are aimed at containing costs and improving population health," they write.
The article was authored by David L. Shern, Ph.D., president and CEO of Mental Health America, Kirsten K. Beronio, J.D., its senior director of government relations, and Henry T. Harbin, a health care consultant. The Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act passed by Congress last October prohibits health plans with more than 50 employees from imposing financial requirements or treatment limitations for mental health and substance abuse conditions that are more restrictive than those for other covered medical conditions and surgical procedures.
The three call on advocates to move assertively to promote the law's protective intent and a patient/consumer focus in its implementation. With federal agencies beginning the process of developing regulations, they urge that the full range of evidence-based interventions, including psychosocial services, is covered in the final regulations.
Because the new law does not mandate coverage, they say advocates must increase awareness among employers, policymakers and the general public of the chronic nature and prevalence of behavioral health conditions and that they can be prevented and effectively treated.
"It is clearly in the employers' self-interest to cover behavioral health care and to appropriately manage these benefits, to improve overall worker productivity," the article states. "The indirect cost increases caused by eliminating MH/SA benefits or limiting coverage to certain diagnoses would greatly outweigh any slight increased cost from complying with the new parity requirements."
Dr. Shern said the parity law significantly advances efforts to recognize that mental health is integral to overall health.
Noting that mental health conditions are closely linked to and impact other medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, the authors emphasize that "integration of mental health and addiction treatment into general health care must be a core component of any health care reform initiative."
Celebrating 100 years of mental health education and advocacy, Mental Health America is the country's leading nonprofit dedicated to helping all people live mentally healthier lives. With our more than 300 affiliates nationwide, we represent a growing movement of Americans who promote mental wellness for the health and well-being of the nation-every day and in times of crisis. In 2009, we are marking a century of achievement with a year-long Centennial Observance: "Celebrating the Legacy. Forging the Future."