• Quote: Mental Health Parity at Last

    Jackie Calmes and Robert Pears in The New York Times:

    The Obama administration on Friday will complete a generation-long effort to require insurers to cover care for mental health and addiction just like physical illnesses when it issues long-awaited regulations defining parity in benefits and treatment.

    The mental health community has been working for this for decades. And now we will see what difference it will make.


    • There are also changes that relate to Medicare: beneficiaries have traditionally faced a 50% co-insurance rate for outpatient mental health (i.e. psychiatrist, psychologist visits). The Mental Health Parity Act phases this down to 20% in 2014 (it’s currently 35%, and it was 40% last year).

      This does affect many disabled Medicare beneficiaries. I believe that disabled Medicare beneficiaries are/were less likely to have supplemental coverage to cover the additional expenses of outpatient mental health visits, so for those without supplemental coverage, MHPA helps. For those who are dually eligible (i.e. they have Medicaid), MHPA still helps indirectly. States normally cover the copayments. Medicare’s increased coverage of outpatient mental health will help states, which will free up dollars they could use for other services for this population.

    • But who is going to pay for it?

      • Given the high societal costs for mental illness , perhaps a better question is what is the change in cost we should expect from mental health parity.

      • How can we afford not to? Improved mental health care reduces crime, incarcerations, and poverty.

      • Hopefully, the US taxpayer, and, also hopefully, from a progressive form of taxation.

        If the US taxpayer doesn’t like how much health care (mental or otherwise) costs, then the US taxpayer needs to vote for politicians who will institute the kind of price controls on medical procedures sensible countries like Japan have. They work great. The joke here is that when a US doctor buys a European luxury car his/her Japanese counterpart buys a motorscooter. (Oh, yes. In case you were wondering, the Japanese have no shortage of people who want to become doctors. At all. If anything, it’s become even more popular in recent years.)