By Jenny Gold
A federal law that passed in 2008 was supposed to ensure that when patients had insurance benefits for mental health and addiction treatment, the coverage was on par with what they received for medical and surgical care.
But until now, the government had only spelled out how the law applied to commercial plans.
That changed Monday, when federal officials released a long-awaited rule proposing how the parity law should also protect low-income Americans insured through the government’s Medicaid managed care and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) plans. The proposed regulation is similar to one released in November 2013 for private insurers.
“Whether private insurance, Medicaid, or CHIP, all Americans deserve access to quality mental health services and substance use disorder services,” said Vikki Wachino, acting director at the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services.
Medicaid and CHIP programs are funded jointly by the federal and state governments.
Even if the state has carved out some benefits under a separate behavioral health plan, patients would be protected under the rule. Medicare patients are generally not affected by the regulation, nor are those in Medicaid fee-for-service plans .
But the rule does affect the majority of the 70 million people on Medicaid who are in managed care plans, and the 8 million children covered by CHIP plans.
Insurers, advocates and the general public will have a chance to comment on the proposed rule. The government will then release a final version.
Photo courtesy of Sanja Gjenero