Parity is about fairness
Americans often have more difficulty getting behavioral health treatment than they do accessing other medical care. Even those with health insurance face barriers. Insurance plans charge them more or put more restrictions on behavioral health benefits that are not in place for other medical care. Parity laws at the federal and state level are designed to change this and make health insurance plans treat individuals with behavioral health conditions fairly.
Parity is the Law
The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (the Federal Parity Law ) was passed in 2008 and requires health insurance plans to cover behavioral health benefits and physical health benefits equally. The Federal Parity Law says three things:
- Health insurance plans CANNOT have higher co-payments and other out-of-pocket expenses for your behavioral health benefits than they do for other medical benefits.
- Health insurance plans CANNOT put higher limitations on the number of visits or days of coverage for your behavioral health care than they do for other medical care.
- Health insurance plans CANNOT use more restrictive managed care practices for behavioral health benefits than they use for other medical benefits.
Parity has many layers
Americans get insurance in many different ways- from their employer, from the federal government, from state or local governments, or by purchasing it themselves on an insurance marketplace (such as healthcare.gov). Parity laws do not apply to all plans in the same way, and not all types of health insurance are covered by the Federal Parity Law or a state parity law. Learn more about parity rights under different health insurance plans here.
Improving Parity Will Take a Group Effort
Even though parity is the law, it is often still difficult for individuals with behavioral health conditions to get the treatment and services they deserve. It is important for all Americans to understand their rights and how to take action if their behavioral health treatment is being unfairly restricted.
Beyond Americans seeking behavioral health treatment, there are many other parties that also have a role in improving parity throughout the country:
- Behavioral health providers can become more familiar with parity laws to help their patients and clients if parity violations occur.
- Insurers can work to provide coverage that goes beyond the Federal Parity Law, which may save them money in the long run.
- Regulators can more closely monitor how insurance plans are following parity laws, and take action when they find that a plan is not in compliance.
- State legislators and members of Congress can write bills that provide more protections for Americans.
- Advocates can help consumers and families understand that they don’t have to accept routine denials of care anymore because the law is on their side now.