The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act was signed into law in 2008 by George W. Bush. It was part of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act that was meant to address the financial crisis. This act aimed to create parity and eliminate discrimination and historical tension over group insurance coverage for mental health and substance use. The legislation cleared up previously vague and abused language on the matter of insurance for mental health and substance use, clarifying its stipulations and protecting it as an equal to medical and surgical coverage.
In November of 2013, the final rule was issued to implement the Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act so that it can take effect on July 1, 2014. The final rule contains additional protections and clarifications to protect the law from abuse. The enactment of the law is a progressive step for U.S. health insurance legislation because it acknowledges mental health and addiction as legitimate health concerns in a way that it hasn’t in the past.
There is, however, a long way to go still before health insurance for mental health and addiction have complete coverage in the United States. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act only requires those group providers who already offer mental health and addiction insurance to make sure the coverage is equal to medical and surgical coverage. It does not require employers who do not offer mental health and addiction insurance to provide it at all. So, in essence, the legislation improves on superior policies and does nothing for lesser policies.
Mental health and addiction are at an all time high in North America. The availability of addictive substances is on the rise, as is crime and self-harm due to mental illness. Treatment is available for these conditions, but many people cannot take advantage of it due to lack of adequate coverage. Society at large would be healthier if people could be connected to the addiction and mental health treatment that they require.