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Administration Issues Interim Final Rules Implementing Mental Health Parity Act
Law Should Help Boost Access to Mental Health, Addiction Services, Says FP
HHS, the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Labor jointly issued the interim final rules, which take effect on April 5.
As previously reported in AAFP News Now, the law does not require businesses to cover mental health and addiction services. However, if a business with 51 or more employees offers coverage for mental health services, it is required to provide the same level of mental health and substance disorder benefits, with respect to financial requirements and treatment limitations, as it does for medical/surgical benefits.
According to comments (7-page PDF; About PDFs) submitted last May to the Labor Department by the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, the new law will result in mental health and addiction services parity for about 113 million Americans.
The AAFP has a longstanding policy on achieving parity between mental health care and other types of health care services. The Academy's position notes that improving mental health care treatment requires enhancing the ability of the primary care physician to treat and be appropriately paid for providing that care, which the new law achieves.
Donald Nease Jr., M.D., an associate professor in the department of family medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, said he views the legislation as being very important for family physicians and their patients with mental illness or substance abuse issues. Family physicians often provide a trusted first point-of-contact for patients seeking mental health services, he said.
"Mental health problems are common among our patients, and lack of access to medication and consultation is a real barrier to care for these patients," said Nease, who also is an associate professor at the University of Michigan Depression Center and a researcher in mental health and primary care health information issues. "These rules will, hopefully, put mental health coverage on a level playing ground with physical health problems for those with group health insurance."