Friday, July 11, 2008

Medicare Mental Health Parity Approved

Just a few days after reconvening from the July recess, the Senate
joined the House in passing the Medicare Improvements for Patients and
Providers Act of 2008 (H.R. 6331) by a veto-proof 69-30.
Less-publicized than the provision that would halt a payment cut for
physicians providing treatment to Medicare patients is new equity
between mental health and medical coverage.

When enacted, the
bill will end a longstanding requirement that affects Medicare
beneficiaries who need outpatient mental health services. Currently,
they face a discriminatory 50% co-insurance for outpatient
psychotherapy and services furnished by non-physician mental health
professionals (20% for prescription and monitoring of medications to
treat mental illness). In contrast, other outpatient health services
require only a 20% co-payment.

The present outdated and unfair
higher co-payment for mental health services has served as an incentive
to use inpatient or institutional care instead of outpatient services.
It has also led seniors and people with disabilities who rely on
Medicare to forgo needed mental health treatment.

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