According to federal law, any insurance plan that covers mental health is required to offer benefits that are on the same level with medical and surgical benefits that are offered. In 23 states, some level of parity is required as well.
This law was approved in 2008, and most associated state laws make it illegal for insurers to charge higher deductibles and copayments for mental health services. They are supposed to treat mental health in the same regard as physical health. However, many states are not doing this.
While regulators can fairly easily keep track of deductibles and copayments, they can’t do so well with parity requirements. The actual delivery of services for mental health patients, as such, has suffered.
Among all 50 states, only New York and California are consistently enforcing the federal laws on this matter. Because of this, many Americans with mental health issues are suffering. Mikal Watts says that people with mental disorders and substance abuse problems are not getting the help promised to them by the federal government.
Mental health advocates hope that when the federal law becomes effective as applicable to insurance plans that were put into effect after July 1, 2014, the government can better regulate parity.
It is unclear whether the disparity between coverage of physical health and mental health is due to the mental illness stigma. Either way, it means that people are not getting treatment they desperately need.