Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Friday said that new requirements imposed on insurance companies by Obamacare will require those companies to treat mental illness and addiction that same as physical illness, creating "the largest behavioral health expansion in a generation."
Sebelius made the announcement at a mental health symposium in Atlanta.
Sebelius said the administration will post regulations Friday requiring that insurance companies treat mental health issues the same as physical health problems. The new regulations will apply to both outpatient and residential treatment for mental health and addiction, which means patients would have the same deductible and co-payments they'd have going to any other doctor.
The regulations aren't new. Congress passed and then-President George W. Bush signed the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, which "requires group health plans and health insurance issuers to ensure that financial requirements such as co-pays, deductibles and treatment limitations, such as visit limits" are no more restrictive for mental health or addiction than for physical ailments.
But Sebelius said the new regulations issued Friday are needed to ensure the law applies under Obamacare and is implemented equally by most health insurance companies, whose adherence to the law has been varied.
The announcement comes as the embattled health care rollout faces a barrage of complaints over website glitches and millions of cancelled insurance policies that do not meet the new health care requirements, including mental health parity.
"We've had inexcusable technology problems" with the healthcare.gov website, said Sebelius, who insisted that the new law's benefits would eventually outweigh the rollout problems.
Sebelius made the announcement at the Carter Center in Atlanta with former first lady Rosalynn Carter attending.
Former President Jimmy Carter last week declared the fate of Obamacare's implementation "questionable at best" after all of the troubles the administration has had launching it.