APA Unveils Resources to Educate Public On Mental Health Coverage Law
A new survey by the American Psychological Association found that only 4 percent of American adults know what the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act is and how it works. The group launched a new education campaign to change that.
How familiar are you with the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008? If you’re drawing a blank, don’t worry—you’re in a group with about 96 percent of the American population who are unfamiliar with the law, according to a new survey by the American Psychological Association (APA).
In brief, the law requires that all health insurers provide coverage for mental-health, behavioral-health, and substance-abuse disorders that is comparable to coverage for physical health with no annual limits, higher copays, or deductibles. The law applies to most employer-provided health plans and to all plans purchased through the new federal and state health insurance exchanges.
“More access to mental health care is the rallying cry, but the simple fact is many people may already have coverage and not know it or not understand how to use it,” Katherine C. Nordal Ph.D., APA’s executive director for professional practice, said in a statement. “The mental health parity law, together with the Affordable Care Act, has expanded mental health treatment opportunities to many Americans in need who may otherwise have gone untreated. But laws don’t have the intended effect when people don’t know that they exist.”
The APA survey of 1,000 American adults, conducted by Harris Polls, revealed several other troubling statistics with regards to understanding of the law, including:
- 29 percent said their insurance has different copays or other limits for mental healthcare.
- 24 percent said they aren’t sure if their insurance offers the same coverage for mental and physical health.
- 56 percent said their current health insurance provides coverage to see a psychologist or other mental health professional.
When asked why they or a family member would not seek treatment for a mental-health disorder, concerns over the cost of treatment was the number-one answer.
APA found little improvement in awareness of the law when it compared these results to a similar survey conducted in 2010. To help change those numbers, the group developed several resources to educate the public on how the law works. The tools include a consumer guide, an employer’s guide, and a video.
According to the latest data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an estimated 43 million Americans experienced mental illness in 2012, yet an estimated 10.7 million didn’t receive adequate mental health treatment. President Obama also declared May 2014 as National Mental Health Awareness Month to highlight the country’s commitment to understanding and treating mental illness.
A clip from an American Psychological Association video informing the public about Mental Health Parity. (YouTube screenshot)