Though President Obama said he was “sorry” that more than 4.2 million Americans have had their health insurance policies cancelled due to his signature health law, that did not stop him from instituting additional regulations and mandates for services in ObamaCare, this time for mental health and substance abuse.
On Friday, the Obama administration announced new rules that place mental health and substance abuse services on par with medical and surgical benefits.
The rules, which will apply to almost all forms of health insurance, will likely have far-reaching consequences, states the New York Times, as they are critical to Obama’s program for preventing gun violence, i.e., his belief that more availability of mental health treatment will reduce gun violence. In issuing the new health insurance regulations, the administration said it will have acted on all 23 executive actions that Obama announced earlier this year to reduce gun crime following the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut last December.
Despite Obama’s belief that if Americans are taxed enough to pay for mental health and substance abuse services for all there will be less gun violence, mental health experts have stated that such a law would not have prevented the Newtown shooting or other similar shootings.
In October, psychiatrist J. Michael Bostwick, M.D. of the Mayo Clinic noted that the vast majority of people who perform mass shootings are not mentally ill; that the majority of mentally ill people are not dangerous; and that taking guns away from the mentally ill will not eliminate mass shootings.
According to the Washington Times, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, standing alongside former first lady Rosalynn Carter, said in Atlanta that the new rules were the end result of a generation-long effort to ensure that millions of Americans with behavioral problems get the same care as physically ill patients.
“For way too long, the health care system has openly discriminated against people with behavioral health problems,” Sebelius said.
The new regulations state that, in addition to mandated coverage for mental health and substance abuse services, insurers must provide transparency, particularly when a claim for behavioral health coverage is denied. Intensive mental health outpatient and residential treatment are to be considered equivalent to similar types of treatment for physical illnesses.
Given that Americans are being forced to purchase health insurance at higher costs already due to mandates for essential benefits such as contraception, as well as for pre-existing conditions, costs are likely to increase even further with mandated benefits of mental health services and substance abuse treatment – whether Americans need these services or not.
How mental health providers who participate in health insurance plans will be required to provide information to the government regarding the behavioral practices of their patients, as well as ownership of guns will likely become an additional issue.