Americans coping with mental health difficulties and addiction will soon be able to get more insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Friday.
The change means insurers will be required to cover mental health and addiction in the same way they cover other illnesses, and Sebelius said new rules will extend benefits to rehabilitation and other outpatient services.
“This is the largest expansion of behavioral health coverage in a generation,” Sebelius said in a speech at the Carter Center in Atlanta.
Details of the new “parity rule” for mental health would be released later in the day, she said.
Critics of extending coverage under the ACA say mental health treatments are often drawn out and costly, with some patients requiring a lifetime of therapy.
But President Barack Obama’s administration has said the new rules will not significantly increase premiums because only a small percentage of patients require higher levels of care.
A nationwide debate on mental health treatment has been spurred by the recent spate of gun-related incidents involving people who may have had inadequately treated mental illnesses.