HHS Develops Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Benefit Resources

According to an April 27 press release, in partnership with the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it has developed new, free informational resources that advise individuals of their rights under law on coverage for mental health benefits.

The release states that “The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA or Parity Law) requires most health plans or health insurers that offer coverage for mental health conditions or substance use disorders to make these benefits comparable to those offered for medical and surgical benefits. This means that deductibles, copays, out-of-pocket maximums, and treatment limitations for mental health or substance use disorders must not be more restrictive than corresponding requirements or parameters offered for medical and surgical benefits.”

Further, “As the agency charged with reducing the impact of substance use and mental illness on America’s communities, SAMHSA is providing these resources to help inform Americans of their insurance benefits under law and to help state insurance regulators and behavioral health staff better understand parity laws. The following resources have been posted on SAMHSA’s website:

  1. Know Your Rights: Parity for Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Benefits,” an updated trifold pamphlet explaining mental health parity, detailing what it means to the consumer, and listing the protections the parity law provides.
  2. Understanding Parity: A Guide to Resources for Families and Caregivers,” which provides an overview of parity geared toward parents, family members or caregivers with information and tools to help them obtain behavioral health services for children or family members in their care.
  3. The Essential Aspects of Parity: A Training Tool for Policymakers,” which provides state regulators and behavioral health staff an overview of mental health and substance use disorder parity and how to implement and comply with the federal parity law regarding employee-sponsored health plans and group and individual health insurance.”

The updates follow a report produced by HHS and the Department of Labor and Treasury that says insurance companies are not doing enough to make sure that parity is shown in the policies they carry.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra was quoted in the release saying that “Since 2008, the Parity Law has required many group health plans and health insurance issuers that provide access to and coverage of mental health conditions and substance use disorders to do so on equal footing with physical health needs, yet many insurance providers continue to fall short in this area. We must do more to promote the needs and rights of the populations we serve—every person living in America should have access to equal coverage of these life-saving services and supports.”

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