The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services proposed new rules April 6 that seek to expand a key federal mental health law to a variety of federal health care programs.
“Improving quality and access to care impacts the health of our nation. Whether private insurance, Medicaid, or CHIP, all Americans deserve access to quality mental health services and substance use disorder services,” CMS Acting Director Vikki Wachino said in a news release.
In 2008, Congress passed the Mental Health Parity and Addition Equity Act, requiring private health care plans to provide mental health and substance abuse services at the same level as they do for other treatment. The Affordable Care Act requires most health care plans to include such services.
The new rule expands the requirements of the 2008 law to Medicaid, the federal government’s primary health care program for low-income people.
However, it will only apply to services provided for managed care plans, as opposed to traditional fee-for-service Medicaid. States would be required to pass their own legislation to oversee managed care plans in their state Medicaid programs.
In addition, it will also be expanded to include the Children’s Health Insurance Program, a separate program passed by Congress in 1997 to expand Medicaid eligibility to children living in households whose incomes would not necessarily be low enough to qualify for Medicaid.
“It’s significant. The mental health parity law preceded the ACA and it’s an issue people have been battling about for some time,” Timothy Jost, a professor at the Washington and Lee University School of Law, told the Wall Street Journal. “A significant number of people with mental health problems are on Medicaid.”
The public comment period for the proposed rule opened April 10 and will continue through June 9.