Parity Act Slow to Catch On

In January 2011, the American Psychological Association (APA) reported that nearly 90 percent of Americans have never heard about mental health parity or of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. In a survey conducted for the APA in December 2010 by Harris Interactive, 89% of those surveyed said they had not heard about the federal law that affects people who have health insurance through a group or employer plan. Only 7% even recognized the phrase ‘mental health parity.’

The American Psychiatric Association(aPa) participates in the Mental Health Parity Watchalong with 11 other organizations. This organization is aimed at educating the public about parity, recording and appealing problems experienced by consumers in accessing mental health benefits, and in general facilitating the broad dissemination of information about the parity law. The aPa reportedon it’s intervention with BCBS-IL regarding their new requirements for preauthorizations for mental health treatment. While BCBS-IL rescinded their requirement for 2011, it is this kind of action by insurers that the law was meant to prevent.

Companies like Aetna have added pages to their web sites on mental health parity. These are designed to communicate directly to members and panel providers what positions the company has decided to take relative to the law. This can be an excellent way for consumers who have health insurance to learn how their insurer plans to address the requirements of the law.

As part of the parity implementation coalition mentioned above (Mental Health Parity Watch), the National Council has produced fact sheets and other resources aimed at educating consumers and answering questions about the law. Their are additional resources available on their blog page including summary of the law, FAQ, and a Parity Toolkit.

What has been your organization’s experience with the parity legislation so far? Have you found that insurers are moving forward with equivalent benefits and preauthorization policies for both physical and mental health? If you have run into difficulties, what have they been and how have you handled them.

Please share your experience to date. Thanks for your comments!

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