20 May 2021USA analysis

TDCI insists insurers treat mental and physical health equally

The Tennessee Department of Commerce (TDCI) has partnered with the Tennessee Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) to remind insurers to treat mental health benefits in the same way they treat physical health coverage.

Under the  Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, if a consumer’s health plan covers mental health and substance use services, it must match its coverage with the plan’s physical health coverage.

Large group health plans cannot impose annual or lifetime dollar limits on mental health benefits that are less favorable than any such limits imposed on medical or surgical benefits. However, if a plan is very limited then mental health coverage will be similarly limited, even in a state with a strong parity law or in a plan that is subject to federal parity.

During the COVID-19 pandemic between 30 and 40 percent of Americans reported symptoms of anxiety and depression, with similar numbers in Tennessee specifically. In a typical year the rate is around 20 percent.

TDCI Commissioner Carter Lawrence said: “Caring for emotional, psychological and mental well-being is just as important as care for a physical injury.”

TDMHSAS Commissioner Marie Williams insisted parity between mental and physical health is an essential element of overcoming the stigma around behavioral health issues.

“As more people learn that their mental health and addiction issues will be treated the same as their physical health needs, they will be more likely to ask for the help they need,” she said.

May is Mental Health Month in the US.