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Federal government to issue regulations on mental health coverage

Our readers know the importance of programs like Social Security disability and Supplemental Security Income. These programs provide income for many people that struggle, because of disability, to provide for themselves and their families. For those with mental health impairments, there will soon be a more reliable network of support under federal law.

This month, the federal government will be issuing regulations regarding the type of mental health coverage insurers will have to provide under the 2010 Affordable Health Care Act. Those regulations, according to mental health experts, will hopefully give those with mental illnesses similar treatment to those who suffer from physical illnesses.

Although the content of the regulations is not yet known, advocates say they are likely to focus on parity in terms of outcome. This means that conditions like depression or schizophrenia will likely be required to be treated as long as it takes to get them under control. This could include evidence-based prescriptions for medications without caps as well as parity for those who work in mental health care.

Insurers have always been worried by the imposition of parity because of higher costs, but new research published in the American Journal of Psychiatry suggests that providing parity may not necessarily increase costs. Part of the reason for this may be that, when it comes to mental health care, a preventive approach is better than an remedial approach.

But it is important, advocates say, for the regulations to focus on evidence-based care rather than a sort of blanket standard mental health coverage.

Source: USA Today, "Impending rules will guide equality for mental health," Kelly Kennedy, February 6, 2013

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