While the Affordable Care Act created more healthcare parity when it comes to mental health or drug treatment addiction, there are still things left out of the law. Some people may not be able to attend certain types of therapies and get coverage.
In California, state law requires health plans to cover treatment for nine different mental illnesses. The government in California is now amending that law radically to include a surprising array of mental illnesses. One of those illnesses listed is substance use disorder, otherwise known as addiction.
Health Care Parity Laws Lacking
Bill Weiner, the author of the bill, says, “We have failed as a society in giving people access to basic mental health and addiction treatment, and we’ve allowed insurance companies to limit their coverage to crisis care, which we would never tolerate for physical health.”
People who have an addiction often have to reach a certain “bottom” before they’re covered, or be diagnosed with a specific mental illness before insurance will pay their bills for psychiatric visits. All the while, these people get sicker as they’re forced to prove they are sick. Where’s the parity in forcing people to get sicker before they’re covered?
“Imagine being diagnosed with Stage 1 cancer and being told your insurance will kick in when you get to Stage 4 cancer. That’s what we tolerate for mental health and addiction,” Weiner explains.
Pandemic Worsening Crisis
The pandemic has caused financial ruin for many people across America. Other people are falling victim to suicide and overdoses due to untreated mental illnesses. Healthcare parity is unseen when services are shuttering and people can’t find the help they need.
Because nobody is visiting healthcare providers face-to-face, it’s easier for people to hide worsening mental states or escalating drug use. In addition, healthcare parity laws could be unobserved and clients can fall through the cracks.
In addition to this, there has been a change in drug supplies overall. Fewer opioids are coming over the border, and more people are buying from drug dealers who sell drugs laced with fentanyl. A majority of deadly overdoses in 2020 have involved the drug, which is over fifty times as strong as morphine.