Just a few days after Kate Spade’s death by suicide, we are once again shocked by another prominent figure’s passing due to the same cause. As he is a world traveler and storyteller, Anthony Bourdain’s death was met with deep sadness by people all over the world. The chef and food writer has shared about his battle with depression in the past. Mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorders, as well as anxiety disorders are among the risk factors for suicide. Depression remains to be the leading cause of suicide.
Such tragic news leads us to think about the state of mental health in the United States and around the world. In terms of mental health, what is the role of the federal and state governments regarding legislation, research, and mental health benefits?
Legislation and Regulation
Federal and state governments work in partnership in tackling mental health. Federal laws provide oversight across states and create changes when needed – they invite individuals and groups to submit comments on regulations through a notice of proposed rulemaking. The federal government provides regulations on how major legislation such as Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MPHAEA), and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) address mental health and cover schools, insurance companies, employers, and treatment providers. State governments do the same within the state.
Some of the current legislation in place include the Caring Start Act of 2015, which requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to support and fund personnel training in implementing an intervention, support, consultation, prevention, and treatment programs for very young children with mental health problems. In 2016, President Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act into law. Mental health advocates believe that the law makes remarkable improvements in mental health in terms of prevention services, treatment, research, and education and training.
Mental Health Benefits
The Mental Health Parity Act, considered the most well-known piece of legislation on mental health benefits, is a federal law that prohibits health insurance companies and group health plans from imposing unfair limitations on mental health or substance abuse benefits, compared to medical and surgical benefits they offer. These benefits include deductibles, copayments, visit limits, and lifetime and annual limits. This law affects employer-sponsored health coverage for companies with 50 or more employees, coverage purchased through exchanges created by Affordable Care Act, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and most Medicaid programs.
Insurance Coverage for Mental Health
While there are legislation and regulations in place for mental health benefits, not everyone is aware that they can get insurance for mental health and substance abuse. The American Psychological Association found in 2014 that only four percent of Americans are aware of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. To be clear, the law does not require insurers to cover mental health benefits, rather, if these benefits are offered, they should not be any more restrictive than those that apply to physical health benefits. If you are unsure whether your health plan is complying with the law, you may ask your human resources department for a summary of your coverage, or directly ask your insurance company.
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