October 3, 2008

Americans One Step Away From Receiving Mental Health Coverage

WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Congress passed mental health parity today, taking a great step forward in the decade-plus fight to end insurance discrimination against those seeking treatment for mental health and substance use disorders. The legislation is part of the new bill that includes tax extenders, changes to FDIC limits and the financial rescue plan. When enacted, this legislation will require that health insurance equally cover both mental and physical health. The American Psychological Association (APA) praises the U.S. House and Senate for its leadership and bipartisan support of the legislation and President Bush for his commitment to signing the bill into law.

"With the passage of this bill, insurance companies can no longer arbitrarily limit the number of hospital days or outpatient treatment sessions, or assign higher copayments or deductibles for those in need of psychological services," said psychologist Dr. Katherine Nordal, APA's executive director for professional practice.

The 2008 bill closes several of the loopholes left by the 1996 Mental Health Parity Act and extends equal coverage to all aspects of health insurance plans, including day and visit limits, dollar limits, coinsurance, copayments, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums. It preserves existing state parity and consumer protection laws while extending protection of mental health services to 82 million Americans not protected by state laws. The bill also ensures mental health coverage for both in-network and out-of-network services.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 57 million Americans suffer from a mental health disorder. According to a 2008 nationwide survey by Harris Interactive in conjunction with the APA, 25 percent of Americans do not have adequate access to mental health services and 44 percent either do not have mental health coverage or are not sure if they do. Additionally, a 2006 survey from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Agency reports that 49 percent of U.S. adults with both serious psychological distress and a substance use disorder go without treatment.

"Research shows that physical health is directly connected to emotional health and millions of Americans know that suffering from a mental health disorder can be as frightening and debilitating as any major physical health disorder," said Dr. Nordal. "It's our hope that passage of this bill will force our health care system to finally start treating the whole person, both mind and body."

The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 148,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting human welfare.

American Psychological Association

CONTACT: Luana Bossolo, +1-202-336-5899, [email protected], or KateKelley, +1-202-336-5898, [email protected], both of American PsychologicalAssociation

Web Site: http://www.apahelpcenter.org/