Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mental Health Parity Act: A New Day For Behavioral Health Services

On February 6, 2010 the feds inked preliminary final regulations for the revised Mental Health Parity & Addiction Equity Act. By as early as July 1, 2010 companies with 50 or more employees must offer mental health and substance abuse benefits that are comparable to their health and surgical benefits - meaning that behavioral health services can be no more restrictive than medical services.

While the finalization of this act will be no more than a quick blip in the news, psychologists and therapists need to realize the huge benefits this act will have on their practices. No longer do your patients have to deal with ridiculous benefits limits for behavioral health services. Going to the psychologist should now, in theory, be as easy as going to the doctor for any other illness. Also, most limits restricting services will be lifted – meaning your patients are no longer limited to X amount of sessions per year.

On a personal note, I think it’s about time mental health was taken as seriously as physical health...at least in the eyes of insurance coverage. I hope people can now feel more financially comfortable getting the help that they need.

For psychologists, now is a great time to embrace this drastic benefits change and start promoting these new, more lenient reimbursement and coverage regulations to current and future clients. A great way to do this would be to build a website for your practice or update your existing website and discuss the benefits of these changes. Also, I’d highly suggest listing your practice in an online therapy directory – this is becoming a more and more popular way for patients to find therapists. A great free therapy directory is HealthPanda - sign up today and get ready for a nice influx of new patients when this act goes into effect in July!

What are your thoughts on the Mental Health Parity Act? As a therapist, how do you think this act will affect your practice? As a current or possible future behavioral health patient, how do you think this act will affect the services you use?

-Tom

2 comments:

  1. Great strides with this act! Another question for you: Do you think health insurance will set higher deductibles for these services to limit participant use?

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  2. Hi Julie,

    Great questions. Deductibles for behavioral health services can be no higher than medical deductibles under MHP. However, that doesn't mean that deductibles in general won't rise because of increased usage of benefits. Also, any increase will depend on your company - they can choose to shift added costs to you (the employee) or have the company pay for them completely(or pick any combination of those two choices).

    -Tom

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