In Consultation

In Consultation

A Sea Change for Psychotherapy?: A Long-Awaited Bill Presents New Opportunities and Challenges

By Mark Lanci and Anne Spreng

May/June 2009

Q: How is the newly passed national Mental Health Parity Bill likely to affect my practice?

A: While most of the country was focused on the current financial crisis, without much fanfare, landmark mental health legislation was being slipped into the bailout bill. Key members of congress, mental health advocates, and practitioner groups have tried for years to pass a mental health parity law, to no avail; but, this time, the mentally ill and their advocates won. The new federal law mandates that mental health coverage must be "on par" with physical health coverage. In other words, copayments, deductibles, visit limits, and annual or lifetime limits will be the same for physical and mental health issues.

California, Colorado, and Connecticut already have full-parity laws, so clients and practitioners won't see much change there. Some states, including Alaska, Arizona, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, and Michigan, have what are called minimum-mandated laws, which mandate a minimum level of mental health coverage; however, this level isn't required to be equal to that of other medical conditions. Other states, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Nebraska, and Utah, have what are called mandated offerings, which require a plan to offer the option of mental health coverage that's equal to coverage for other medical conditions, though buyers have the option of accepting or rejecting it. Only two states, Idaho and…

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