In September 2007, the United States Senate collectively passed the Mental Health Parity Act (MPHA) of 2007. If the Act passes, it will ensure that private health insurance plans provide equal coverage for mental health as it would for physical health. In which case, insurers cannot establish different financial requirements for mental health, such as deductibles, co-pays, annual and lifetime limits. Thus, health plans will no longer ban discriminatory limits on number of outpatient visits and days of inpatient coverage for mental health care services, and prevent state laws affecting financial requirements and treatment limitations for mental health care services.
The concept of parity means equal treatment for mental health services as it would for medical and surgical services. Parity is important because it demonstrates desirability for policyholders to seek mental health treatment, thereby taking a preventative care approach that will possibly reduce costs at many levels. Like access to general medical care, access to mental health care can play an important role in whether people receive the treatment.
Most health insurance includes mental health benefits. However, such benefits are more limited than medical/surgical benefits especially as it relates to the number of visits covered, higher patient cost-sharing requirements, and limits on total expenses covered by the plan.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), two third of 44 million Americans with mental disorders either are under-treated or receiving no treatment at all. Moreover, recent research indicates that more than one out of four American has a diagnosable mental disorder, but the majority cannot afford treatment (Maxfield, Achman, Buck, & Teich, 2007, p. 83). In 1999, approximately 76% of the United States population had some mental health benefits (Maxfield, Achman, Buck, & Teich, 2007, p. 94). Yet, less than half (about 44%) of the U.S. population had mental health benefits...