Final Ruling Can Benefit Psychiatrists and Their Patients

January 7, 2014

The mental health community was given some much needed relief when the Obama Administration implemented the final rule be put in place from the 2008 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.

In November 2013, the mental health community was given some much needed relief when the Obama Administration implemented the final rule be put in place from the 2008 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 hopefully will benefit not only those with mental illnesses, but also clinicians who treat mental disorders. After a 5-year delay, mental health parity is clearly defined for insurance providers. In other words, this allows psychiatrists and other health care professionals to give much needed help to those who did not have previous access to mental health treatment.

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 US. Even though the data might show that mental health issues are arguably more common than the average American might think, most people do not seek treatment because of the intense stigma surrounding psychiatric disorders. But the truth is, mental illness can look like any one of us.

Stigma added to the cost of treatment is a dangerous combination that leaves many to forego care. According to 2006 data, the NIMH concluded that mental health services for adults costs on average $1591. For children and adolescents, the price is higher with an average cost of $1931.

Let’s not leave out those who also struggle with substance abuse problems. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimates that over 23 million Americans go through addiction issues.

Treatment programs are not cheap, and in our current economic times, many families are faced with some tough decisions. SAMHSA found that an alarmingly low percentage (11%) of individuals who have substance abuse problems get care.

Under the new rule, those seeking help for drug abuse problems will also be able to access treatment programs they previously could not afford. My hope is that with the new parity measure, it will help fill 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.

Although some may differ with my stance, I believe that under both the expanded parity rules as well as the Affordable Care Act (ACA), psychiatrists and other mental health professionals will be more open to operating mental health centers.

Currently, the number of psychiatrists is declining in the US. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the field only grew around 1% in 2012. However, with new coverage options for patients, many believe that parity measures and the ACA will attract more to the profession as the increased affordability measures will bring insurers back to the table and along with them, people seeking treatment. This is beneficial for those patients who were unable to receive care because they had few insurance options. Further, current and prospective psychiatrists will benefit in the industry with innovation and growth opportunities.

The new parity rule eliminates much of the bureaucracy and red tape that the 2008 legislation was supposed to dissolve. By eliminating the loopholes in which many insurance providers hid, the new parity regulations shine a light on the treatment of psychiatric disorders in the US.

I applaud the Obama Administration for taking a big step in the right direction to get all Americans the care they need to lead healthy and productive lives.

Disclosures:

Mr Monroe is CEO of Newport Academy in Orange, California, and Bethlehem, Connecticut. He reports no conflicts of interest concerning the subject matter of this article.