The fight for parity and equal rights for individuals living with serious mental illness has come a long way since Dorothea Dix began lobbying for better quality of life for those with mental health conditions in the 1840s. Even with major advancements, there is still much more that can be done to increase equity and access to services for those living with mental illness.1 Policies such as the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Mental Health Parity & Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA), and other national advocacy efforts like the civil rights movement have made great gains; however, until further laws are put in place at a state and national level, desperately needed services and coverage for individuals with mental illnesses will continue to be insufficient.2
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Changes in delivery and reimbursement for mental health services were abundant in 2018, spurred by a combination of state and federal initiatives aimed at improving behavioral health in the United States. The trend is expected to continue throughout 2019.Watch Now
Lack of treatment for mental health and substance abuse disorders, has been associated with premature mortality, productivity loss, high rates of disability, and increased risk for chronic disease.
According to the America’s Mental Health 2018 study of approximately 5,000 individuals, one in five Americans (17%) stated that they had to choose between treating a condition related to physical health and a condition related to mental health due to insurance policies and related costs.
Currently there are over 5.3 million adults with a mental illness who remain uninsured. The biggest disparity in uninsurance rates between states is between Massachusetts (2.2%) and Texas (23.0%).
According to Former Senator Patrick Kennedy, an outspoken advocate for mental health and addiction parity, one goal of the MHPAEA is to develop case law and common law standards in order to enforce parity laws properly within the U.S.
The Mental Health Parity Act disposed of large group health plan annual or lifetime dollar limits of mental health benefits which are less favorable than similar limits for medical or surgical benefits. The MHPAEA added additional protections to those with substance abuse disorders. However, these requirements only apply only to large group health plans and health insurers that choose to add mental health and substance abuse disorders to their benefit packages.