WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration issued new rules Friday that will improve
access to mental health care for 62 million Americans. It's an idea the
president said he would impose himself by executive order when Congress
declined to pass gun legislation.
The move comes after the movie theater massacre in Colorado that left 12 dead; the shootings in Newtown, Conn., that killed 27; the Washington Navy Yard attack, in which 12 died; and the shooting at Los Angeles International Airport one week ago. Eighty-eight dead in 12 mass shootings in just over a year.
health professionals have sought this change for decades, both to
improve treatment and to lift a long-standing stigma. Friday's
announcement means insurance companies now must provide the same benefit
coverage for illnesses of the mind they have long provided for every
other kind of illness.
In Atlanta Friday, Health and
Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius described a new world for
those suffering from mental illness or substance abuse.
what it would mean if people felt as comfortable saying they were going
for counseling as they do saying they're going for a flu shot or
physical therapy," Sebelius said.
Patients with broken bones or heart attack symptoms are routinely
admitted to emergency rooms and insurers are contacted later. Before
Friday, patients reporting severe depression or suicidal tendencies
often had to be approved by insurance companies before they were
admitted. Treatment could be delayed or coverage denied. Now, that
disparity will no longer exist.
The new rules are a result of Obamacare
and a 2008 law that called for mental health parity. They are also the
last of 23 executive actions to reduce gun violence that President Obama
took when Congress voted against stricter gun control legislation after
the Sandy Hook school shooting.
The new rules also
forbid insurers from denying coverage for out-of-state mental illness or
substance abuse treatment. This will allow patients to travel for care
in the same way patients suffering from cancer or other ailments have
been able to for years.