Mental Health Parity tagged posts

Congress Strengthens Mental Health Parity

Carol Rickard

Carol Rickard, Community Education and Outreach
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

With the stroke of his pen on December 13, 2016, as he signed the 21st Century Cures Act, President Obama moved our nation one step closer to treating the whole person and ensuring equal access to health care for individuals living with a mental health condition. This law addresses a wide range of health issues, including a major emphasis on mental health issues. In signing the legislation, the President put into motion critical provisions to improve implementation and enforcement of the 2008 parity law.

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (the Federal Parity Law) created much-needed protections for ensuring mental health is treated equally to physical health and ending the discriminatory practices used.  As was highlighted in the August 23, 2016 CFYM post, there has been a great void in implementation and enforcement because the federal law left much of the enforcement to the states. This, in turn, left significant gaps in protection to equal access for individuals in need of mental health treatment. The unintentional consequence: a law enacted to protect people has failed to do so.

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What Is the Future of Obamacare?

Health Insurance Photo

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

With Republicans moving into the White House and controlling both houses of Congress, what can the American people expect to happen to “Obamacare” and what impact will that have for those of us living with a mood disorder and our families? If Obamacare collapses, will we have access to mental health care?

Many people are unaware of the connection between mental health parity and Obamacare. Mental health parity became law in 2008, making it illegal for insurance plans to provide different levels of coverage for mental health care as compared to medical/surgical benefits. However, it was the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA); often referred to as “Obamacare” that required all health insurance plans governed by this law to offer mental health coverage in the first place. Until Obamacare, insurance plans could side-step parity by simply not offering mental health coverage. As a new administration gets ready to take charge, many people are asking if they will still have affordable access to insurance plans that provide both physical and mental health coverage.

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Think You Have Adequate Insurance Coverage? Think Again.

Carol Rickard
Chair, DBSA New Jersey Grassroots Organization

Every year, millions of people go through their employer’s open enrollment period for health care insurance and are completely unaware of the danger that lies lurking in the darkness of that coverage: managed care!

As I sit to write this article, I am reminded of my introduction to managed care via a patient I cared for on the inpatient mental health unit where I had worked as a Recreation Therapist. Honestly, she comes to mind any time my thoughts move to “managed care.”

An all too common story
Linda was a mother of two young ...

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Now That You Understand Mental Health Parity Issues, How Will You Respond?

TAKE ACTION

Since the first of the year, CFYM has informed and educated our readers  about the issues of mental health parity. Our guest bloggers have asked, “If we don’t have access, do we really have parity?” Others have revealed the tragic results that can occur when access is lacking. Still others have pointed out the disparity between states.

The one point they all have in common is a plea for you, the reader, to take action! Taking action means getting involved. Below are some suggestions:

  • Understand your insurance benefits
  • Challenge stigma
  • Contact your elected officials

While the words are simple on paper, actually taking steps is anything but. That is why CFYM, in partnership with the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), wants to make getting involved easier for our readers.

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Disparity, Not Parity, Describes Mental Health Status and Access in America Today

Paul Gionfriddo
President Mental Health America

That’s the bottom line message in a recent report, entitled Parity or Disparity: The State of Mental Health in America 2015, released by Mental Health America (MHA).

But the good news is that there are plenty of things we can do to change that – if we’re willing to change the way we approach mental illnesses in general.

MHA produced this report because we aren’t satisfied with the narrowness of the policy debate we have been having. It has been too much about public safety and post-crisis intervention, leading to a focus on inappropriate, back end, post-crisis care. These interventions occur long after mental health concerns—if identified and treated early—could be eliminated or mitigated, avoiding crises and tragedies.

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What Should Employers Do to Increase Access to Mental Health Care?

Ken Dolan-Del Vecchio

Ken Dolan-Del Vecchio, LMFT, LCSW, DVS, CEAP, SPHR
Vice President, Health and Wellness, Prudential Financial, Inc.

I read Carolyn Beauchamp’s recent post CFYM with interest, but not surprise. Ms. Beacuchamp discusses the inadequacies of insurers’ behavioral health networks and highlights the challenges that insured patients encounter when seeking mental health care. Often network information is outdated or incorrect, and it can be extremely time-consuming and frustrating to obtain an appointment. For someone in a worsening mental health state, such obstacles are frustrating at best, catastrophic at worst.

While Carolyn’s piece sheds light on this important issue, it is—unfortunately—not news to those of us who work in the behavioral health field. As a practitioner, I experienced the frustrations of patients struggling to find an in-network provider or schedule an appointment within a reasonable time frame. Now, in my current role as Vice President, Health and Wellness, at Prudential Financial, I work to combat these challenges and reduce obstacles to care.

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How Can We Achieve Mental Health Parity If There Are Not Enough Practicing Psychiatrists?

A provider’s perspective on the limited access to mental health care

Dr. Philip R. Muskin
Professor of Psychiatry
Columbia University Medical Center

As a practicing psychiatrist and patient advocate, I strongly believe that equal treatment and quality care should apply to someone who has a chronic mental health illness, like schizophrenia or major depressive disorder, requiring ongoing therapeutic and complex medical management, just as would apply to a patient in need of cardiovascular treatment or other chronic medical issue.

I’m troubled and frustrated by the rash of recent studies finding that patients across the United States are unable to obtain a timely appointment with a local mental health provider, notably a psychiatrist, who accepts their insurance coverage. This growing problem, old news to those of us practicing in the field, is multi-faceted and a fix will require a significant commitment to change on the part of many involved in the delivery and financing of health care. Unfortunately, it’s not clear such a commitment yet exists.

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If Access is Lacking, Do We Have Mental Health Parity?

Carolyn Beauchamp
President and CEO, Mental Health Association in New Jersey
Mental Health Association of NJ Finds Access to Providers Lacking 

Rhonda’s story 
Rhonda, a young woman living with both bipolar disorder and an eating disorder for most of her life, was frustrated. She’d been trying for weeks to find a new psychiatrist, after being released from an inpatient clinic, where she was treated for a severe bipolar episode. On a list of 15 providers, several were simply unreachable, either wrong numbers or no answer. When she got through to the others, they were either not accepting her insurance or had a 4-6 week wait for an appointment. She felt distraught and hopeless. She didn’t know how she would cope.

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