A look at mental health parity in action

As federal legislators debate bills that would create parity between mental health insurance benefits and traditional medical benefits, few have asked the question as to whether this approach has really expanded access in the past. However, if Connecticut's experience is any guide, parity of benefits may not close the mental health treatment gap completely. Connecticut, which has had a mental health parity law on the books since 2000, requires the state's insurers to pay for treatment of mental or nervous conditions accepted by the psychiatric profession. However, there are several flaws in the bill that make it almost useless, critics say. For example, insurers can still decide which treatments are "medically necessary," can pay mental health providers as little as possible and can force them to go through so much paperwork that they refuse to participate in plans. The state's critics say that unless proposed federal bills address these problems, the new federal rules will have no teeth either.

To learn more about Connecticut's experience:
- read this Hartford Courant article

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