Kelly O’Brien, The Kennedy Forum Illinois
When the historic Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (“Federal Parity Law”) was enacted, Americans expected to have fewer barriers to access mental health and addiction services, and expected that behavioral health benefits would be provided on par with other medical/surgical health plan benefits. As Tim Clements of ParityTrack shared in a previous CFYM post, it is largely the state regulatory agencies that are responsible for implementing and enforcing the Federal Parity Law. Unfortunately, it’s now eight years since MHPAEA became law, and most states have not fulfilled that obligation, including Illinois. The result is that health plan beneficiaries continue to be denied access to behavioral health services and remain unaware of their right to access care as a part of their health plan’s covered benefits.
Authored by former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, founder of The Kennedy Forum, the law requires health insurance plans to guarantee that financial requirements and limitations on treatment benefits for mental health or substance use disorders are no more restrictive than the insurer’s requirements and restrictions for medical and surgical needs. The Affordable Care Act (sometimes known as Obamacare) expanded the Federal Parity Law to apply to even more health insurance plans.