New mental health, substance abuse insurance rule to be finalized, official says

November 8, 2013
The federal government issued new rules it says increase parity between mental health and substance abuse benefits and traditional medical benefits. The rules say co-pays, deductibles and visit limits should not be more restrictive. (AP)

The Obama administration will finalize a rule Friday that will require insurers to treat mental health and substance abuse problems the same way as physical illness, according to an administration official.

The regulation--which will be jointly issued by the Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury Departments—will ensure that co-pays, deductibles and visit limits for mental illness and addiction treatment will be comparable to surgical and medical benefits. The administration official who described the measure asked not to be identified because the announcement had not been made yet.

President Obama and Vice President Biden’s plan to reduce gun violence included the rule among its 23 proposed executive actions, all of which have now been fully or partially implemented.

“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,” the official wrote in an e-mail. “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.”

The New York Times first reported the decision.

The final rule to be issued Friday implements the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act , and includes other consumer protections such as new disclosure rights for insurance plan participants.

Juliet Eilperin is a White House correspondent for The Washington Post, covering domestic and foreign policy as well as the culture of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She is the author of two books—one on sharks, and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other—and has worked for the Post since 1998.
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Sean Sullivan · November 7, 2013