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Mental Health and Substance Abuse Parity

by James Heller 26. March 2010 14:18
Individuals who suffer from mental health and substance use disorders need treatment the same as anyone dealing with issues of physical health.  It stands to reason, then, that they should get equal coverage by insurance companies.  HR 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, is now law, and includes language that will now require mental health and substance abuse parity in coverage.

Parity, in simple terms, means to put things on par or to make things equal.  In terms of health care, mental health and substance use disorder treatment is usually not covered on par with medical care.  Examples of inequality include premium, copayment, and deductible rates.  It is hard to argue that the majority of insurance companies have kept up with trends in mental health and substance abuse care to provide proper coverage.

Mental health disorders, alcohol dependence, and drug addiction all affect more individuals than just those who directly suffer.  Family members, friends, employers, and co-workers are all pulled into the world of the sufferer at one time or another.  Treatments for all illnesses in these categories have greatly advanced in the past few decades, and so has the cost.  So when treatment is needed, it is often not sought due to poor coverage that can cause a drain on personal finances.

It is rather unusual for individuals to forego treatment for medical problems when they are insured.  This is especially true for moderate to major physical health problems.  For example, when individuals experience pain in an area where there was none previously, they see a doctor because they want to be sure nothing serious is developing.  But with mental health and substance abuse issues, this is not always the case.

It may be an underlying reason behind the “I can handle it” attitude that is often associated with mental health issues, alcohol abuse, and drug abuse.  While there are inherent symptoms that postpone treatment being sought, the cost factor can be a final deterrent.  Even when sufferers reach the point where the treatment need is acknowledged, the cost reality stops them from getting that treatment immediately.

People are often reluctant to spend money on mental health treatment or alcohol and drug treatment while they can still moderately function in society.  But they are not, by definition, in good health.  In fact, they forego treatment for these problems at the time when it can be most effective; in the early stages.  If mental health and alcohol or drug abuse issues are left untreated, they get worse in most cases.  As the illness gets worse, life problems also mount along with costs to society.

Parity in mental health and substance abuse coverage is helpful to society.  Untreated, those who suffer often are incarcerated for various crimes or are in need of health care.  Incarceration and public health care costs can be greatly reduced with treatment.  With parity, treatment becomes a viable option so fewer sufferers will reach the point where they are incarcerated or need health care.

The Mental Health and Substance Abuse Parity Act was included in the final version of what is now known as Health Care Reform.  This means that insurance companies must now provide equal coverage for mental health and substance abuse treatment as they would for medical care.  Separate deductibles are no longer allowed, and premium rates must be on par.  Our hope from this is for more of those who need treatment to get it before illness-related problems become overwhelming.

Tarzana Treatment Centers in Los Angeles provides mental health treatment as part of our commitment to integrated behavioral healthcare.  If you or a loved one needs help with mental health disorders, or alcohol and drug treatment, please call us now at 888-777-8565 or contact us here.

Southern California Locations for Alcohol and Drug Treatment
Tarzana Treatment Centers has locations all over Southern California in Los Angeles County. Other than our central location in Tarzana, we have facilities in Lancaster in the Antelope Valley, Long Beach, and in Northridge and Reseda in the San Fernando Valley.