BLOG: Mental health parity ruling long overdue

December 10, 2013

New mandate ensures that plans cover mental health and addiction services in the same way they treat other medical issues.

By Jamison Monroe, Jr. 

 

Last month, the mental health community was given some much needed relief when the Obama Administration implemented the final rule be put in place from 2008’s Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. The new mandate will ensure that most health plans cover mental health and addiction services in the same way they treat other medical issues. 

This ruling was long overdue and only further highlights the friction between the mental health community and insurance companies who have resisted covering mental illness. Now, after a 5-year delay, mental health parity is defined clearly to insurance providers. In other words, people who may be suffering from bipolar disorder can walk into a doctor’s office and receive the same care someone who caught the flu would get.

And while we have all had the flu or gone to the doctor for a check-up, mental illness is more prevalent than some realize.

According to statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), one in four adults live with a mental illness.  This makes it the leading cause of disability in the United States.

Even though the data might show that mental health issues are more common than most Americans think, most people don’t get treated due to the intense stigma surrounding the illnesses.

Stigma added to the cost of treatment is a dangerous combination that leaves many to forgo care. NIMH concluded that mental health services for adults cost on average of $1,591. For kids, the price is higher with an average of $1,931.

Let’s not leave out those who also struggle with substance abuse problems. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that 23 million Americans go through addiction issues.  This number is only rising because of the lack of preventive services. In fact, I was one of them.

I currently operate Newport Academy, a teen and young adult treatment facility with a location in Southern California and now, in Connecticut. I opened the East Coast center because of the overwhelming response I received from families who needed to send their kids for care, but couldn’t find any local rehabs in their region.

For a lot of Americans, treatment programs are not cheap and in our current economic times, many families are faced with some tough decisions.  Only about 11% of individuals who need treatment get care.

I believe that under both the expanded parity rules as well as the Affordable Care Act, healthcare providers and investors will be more open to operating mental health centers.

My hope is that with the new parity rule, it will help feed a void for more facilities to open in areas that need accessible and affordable treatment centers-not only for specifically substance abuse, but also for all mental illnesses. 

Jamison Monroe, Jr., CEO of Newport Academy located in Southern California and Connecticut.