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Fall Advocacy Preview

Mental Health Parity Takes Center Stage

The Ohio State Medical Association (OSMA) expects that several years of work with a coalition to bring mental health insurance coverage parity to Ohioans will culminate this fall with the introduction of legislation. A recent report assigns 32 states, including Ohio, a failing grade for ensuring equal access to mental health and addiction treatment for their citizens, even though federal law states that health insurers must provide coverage for the treatment of mental health and addiction that is equal to the coverage provided for physical illnesses and conditions.

In other words, the Federal Parity Law, or Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) requires that insurers cover illnesses of the brain, such as addiction or depression, no more restrictively than illnesses of the body, such as cancers or diabetes. In addition, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded the requirements of this law by mandating that small group and individual health plans cover health services as an essential health benefit.

Robust parity statutes in each state would give state regulators strong tools for enforcing parity, but unfortunately not all states have such laws on the books. Ohio passed a parity law in 2006, but this law has a narrow scope and does not align with the federal parity law. Especially at a time when in Ohio and across the country, families are struggling with the ongoing impacts of a substance use disorder and overdose epidemic as well as a rise in suicide rates, state parity enforcement must be a high priority to save lives and reduce costly late interventions.

Parity at 10 is a national, 3-year campaign to unite local and national advocates in pursuit of full enforcement of the Parity Act. The plan is to first establish comprehensive and effective models for robust parity enforcement in 10 states, and then use these models to spread parity enforcement to the rest of the country.

The Parity at 10 campaign kicked off in 5 states in 2017: Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Ohio. In Ohio, the campaign is led by The Ohio Council of Behavioral Health & Family Service Providers. The OSMA is an active participant in the Parity at 10 campaign efforts, and has been working with a coalition of organizations to continue to move the initiative forward.

The OSMA and the rest of the coalition will work to support the forthcoming legislation to bring true mental health parity to Ohio. Stay tuned for updates on this issue as legislative proceedings kick back into high gear this fall.



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