“... Millions of Americans with health insurance are entitled to access to a full range of mental health and substance abuse disorder services,” Franken and Harkin wrote, referring to the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Act. “However, while this historic law was passed four years ago, the administration has yet to issue a final rule, potentially leaving many Americans who need and have a right to these services without access to them.”
After receiving the letter, the administration announced that the final rules will be completed by the end of this year.
The recent movement in the federal bureaucracy is a relief to advocacy organizations for people with mental illness and to providers of mental health care, according to a report in American Medical News.
“For far too long we have had a two-tiered insurance system, with those who had brain disorders getting less coverage than those who had heart disease,” said Mark Covall, president and CEO of the National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems.
The delays in implementing the 2008 law were, according to some health care analysts, partly the result of the Obama administration being overwhelmed by the task of writing the rules for the even-more-sweeping Affordable Care Act. But the Department of Health and Human Services also announced recently that the two laws will combine to dramatically increase the number of Americans with mental health coverage that matches their other medical coverage, bringing the total to 62.5 million Americans.
Currently, about 30.4 million have coverage that provides parity for mental health and substance abuse care, according to the department.