June 17, 2010
On October 3, 2008, the President signed into law The Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA), marking historic bipartisan support by Congress for equitable coverage of treatment for mental illness and substance use disorders. This landmark legislation requires health insurance companies to offer fair and equal coverage of treatment for mental health and substance use disorders.
The Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor (DOL) and the Treasury have issued an interim final rule (IFR) for insurance companies implementing the MHPAEA regulations that apply to plans beginning on or after July 1, 2010. The rule bars insurance companies from having different rules for mental health benefits and other medical benefits, including rules on lifetime and annual limits, co-pays, deductibles, treatment limits, and out-of-network benefits. As more individuals obtain health insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act, it is essential that those with these conditions be able to access the treatment they need.
Currently, the health insurance industry is claiming that mental illnesses cannot be treated like physical ailments, an argument that does not reflect the three decades of scientific research from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) that proves otherwise. Such arguments seek to preserve insurance company profits and put individuals living with mental illnesses "back in the shadows."
Congressman Paul Tonko (D – New York) has circulated a "Dear Colleague" letter in the House of Representatives, which he will be sending to HHS, DOL and the Treasury urging the agencies to reject the health insurance industry's logic and preserve the strong IFR. To view a copy of Congressman Tonko's "Dear Colleague" and sign-on letter, please see below.
Please contact your Representative in the U.S. Congress and urge them to help protect the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and preserve the strong IFR by signing on to this letter. Advocates can reach their House member by calling 800-828-0498.