White House proposes new rule to expand access to mental health benefits

WASHINGTON — Tuesday, President Biden announced new actions aimed at expanding access to mental health care for people with private health insurance plans.

Officials say this would ensure private insurance plans offer similar access to mental health benefits as they do for physical health.

According to the administration, this effort reinforces an existing federal law, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. It requires health plans to offer the same level of benefits for both mental and physical health.

Under the rule, insurance companies must evaluate and update their coverage to make sure they’re complying to the law. This may lead to adding more mental health professionals to networks or reducing red tape to access care.

Some doctors say this kind of change is long overdue.

“We hear repeatedly from people that either there’s nobody available for them to see, or their co-pays are so high that they can’t afford to pay the co-pays themselves, or they don’t get enough sessions to get all of the assistance that they need,” said Dr. Nadine Kaslow at Emory University School of Medicine.

Now, she wants more insurance companies offer better rates to mental health professionals. Kaslow said often pay is too low for them to practice as part of an insurance network.

“They can do much better financially if they’re not part of a network, and yet many mental health providers want to provide to people who receive insurance if they get paid fairly,” she said.

This proposal would also impact the hundreds of health plans offered to state and local government employees.

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