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New Rules on Mental Health Will Assure Coverage


In an attempt to offer better mental health care, the Obama administration issued new rules on Friday to improve insurance coverage of mental health care for more than 140 million people insured through their jobs.

The rule declares that employers and group health plans cannot provide less coverage for mental health care than for the treatment of physical conditions. Because disparities are common in the insurance industry, insurers cannot set higher co-payments and deductibles or stricter limits on treatment for mental illness and addiction disorders. In addition, they are not allowed to have separate deductibles for mental health care.

By changing such restrictions, doctors are hopeful and feel that this new rule will make it easier for people to be able to get treatment for conditions such as depression, autism, schizophrenia, eating disorders and alcohol and drug abuse.

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Andrew Sperling of the National Alliance on Mental Illness said, "Health plans will be under an obligation to provide the same level of coverage for treatment of mental illness as they do for cancer, diabetes and heart disease."

“We’ve got to treat mental illness as a physical illness, which it is,” said the bill’s author, Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay). “The stigma exists, and I think that stigma still being out there is killing people, and it’s just wrong. Can small business afford this? What are the costs of not treating mental illness and addiction?”

Senator Judy Robson (D-Beloit) said businesses will save money in the long run. “This (mental illness or addiction) costs employers,” said Robson. “When you have employees that are not functioning up to their potential, or have many sick days, they drain the employer.”

“I’m not sure why insurance companies through the years have decided that mental illness has certain restrictions on coverage,” Robson said. “We don’t do that for diabetes or heart disease.”

U. S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, "The rules issued will assure that those diagnosed with these debilitating and sometimes life-threatening disorders will not suffer needless or arbitrary limits on their care."