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New rule requires equal treatment for mental illness

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NIMHFive years after the passage of a groundbreaking law establishing equality between mental health care and other medical treatments, the Obama administration announced its final rule Friday defining how that treatment must be provided.

The rule requires insurers to charge similar co-payments for mental health treatment as they would for physical ailments. It also makes clear that deductible and visit limits are generally not more restrictive for mental health and substance abuse care.

"This final rule breaks down barriers that stand in the way of treatment and recovery services for millions of Americans," said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "Building on these rules, the Affordable Care Act is expanding mental health and substance use disorder benefits and parity protections to 62 million Americans. This historic expansion will help make treatment more affordable and accessible."

HHS says the rule also includes several other consumer protections, including ensuring that parity is applied to care received in residential treatment and intensive outpatient settings, and clarifying that parity applies to all health care plan standards, including geographic limits and facility-type limits.

About 26% of Americans 18 and older have a diagnosable mental disorder every year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

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