Mental Health

New Rule To Make Insurers Treat Mental Illness, Substance Abuse The Same As 'Physical' Illness

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

President Barack Obama's administration expects to finalize a measure on Friday that requires insurers to provide equal coverage for mental illness and substance abuse patients as "physical" illness, an official says.

The measure is critical to Obama’s plan to reduce gun violence – expanding the availability of mental health treatment could reduce mass murder.

The reform, which applies to almost all forms of insurance, has been a generation in the making, The New York Times reported. It makes co-pays, visit limits and deductibles for mental health and substance abuse treatment are comparable to medical and surgical benefits.

“The administration committed to finalize this rule as part of a larger effort to increase access to affordable mental health services and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness,” an official told the Washington Post in an email. “As the president and vice president have made clear, mental illness should no longer be treated by our society – or covered by insurance companies – differently from other illnesses.”

Mental health advocates have been waiting for the rule to pass since 2008. Cost is one of many major stumbling blocks in mental health and substance abuse treatments. Prescription medications alone for conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder cost $300 to $1,400 per month.

“We feel actually like we’ve made a lot of progress on mental health as a result in this year, and this is kind of the big one,” said a senior administration official, quoted in the Times.

Sources: New York Times, Washington Post