EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 26, 2013

Editorial: Set rules now on mental health parity


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Nearly five years ago, Congress passed the mental health parity law that requires coverage for mental health treatment be equal to that for medical and surgical care.

Almost immediately, insurance and employer groups fought against the specifics of implementation just as hard as they fought for 10 years against the law itself.

Consequently, the Obama administration has slowed down any progress on regulations to a snail’s pace. And even with new studies and re-emerging news reports of the inadequacy of coverage for those with mental illness, the White House says it still needs yet another year to finalize the rules.

This is scandalous.

There apparently is enough willingness to put gun control on the front burner but not enough to assist the welfare of our most vulnerable citizens.

Under pressure, the administration released rules regarding parity in insurance plans to be offered through the Affordable Care Act.

This comes nowhere near what providers and insurers need to move forward, which are the detailed rules defining the full scope of services that insurers must provide. The White House says it needs more time.

Some things are not in dispute. Under federal law, large employers who offer mental health benefit coverage cannot charge any more than what is being charged for general medical services. Nor can limits be set on treatments any more than limits are placed on the medical care.

But access and enforcement remains in limbo.

If the administration needs to bring in more analysts to hammer out the rules, then do it. But this continued malingering of governance is prolonging the deplorable state of inequity in health care to those people who need it the most — and who apparently have the softest voice of the special interests.