It’s final: Health insurance companies must cover mental illness and substance abuse just as they cover physical diseases.
The Obama administration issued new regulations Friday that spell out how a 5-year-old mental health parity law will be administered.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the rule should put an end to discrimination faced by some mental health patients through higher out-of-pocket costs or stricter limits on hospital stays or visits to the doctor.
The law, signed by President George W. Bush, was designed to prevent that. But mental health advocates said health insurers at times sidestepped lawmakers’ intentions by delaying requests for care and putting in place other bureaucratic hurdles.
They described the new Obama administration rule as necessary to ensure patients get benefits they are entitled to receive.
The administration had pledged to issue a final mental health parity rule as part of an effort to reduce gun violence. Officials said they have now completed or made significant progress on 23 executive actions that were part of a plan announced in response to the school massacre in Newtown, Conn., last December.
Health insurers said the final rule doesn’t really change the landscape they’ve been operating in since interim rules were released in 2010.