Feds Finalize Mental Health Parity Rules; State Implications Under Review

Nov 8, 2013

Most health insurance plans must now cover mental health and addiction treatment the same way they cover medical benefits. A trio of federal agencies has issued the final rule on how to implement the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. Former congressman Patrick Kennedy says the act he co-sponsored is only a beginning for better mental health treatment.

Kennedy co-sponsored the parity law with his late father, Senator Edward Kennedy. It passed in 2008 but it took years of politicking and public awareness-raising to get the government to issue the final rule insurers needed to implement it. The law prevents large group health plans that offer mental health and substance abuse coverage from making that coverage any more restrictive than medical or surgical coverage. The law still leaves some gaps in coverage. And Patrick Kennedy says more work will be needed to ensure the law is enforced.

“Instead of this being known as the final rule, I see it as just the beginning of a new march towards progress for people in the community of mental health.”

Rhode Island has required insurers to cover some mental health issues and to offer comparable coverage for mental and physical health benefits for several years. Rhode Island officials are currently studying how the new federal law impacts state requirements.