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What Does ‘Parity’ Mean in Relation to Mental Health Care?

In our society, we generally accept the notion of parity as a good and positive thing. We applaud the fact that everyone gets one equal vote. In sports, we think it’s fair that the team with the worst record should pick first in the next year’s draft, and we’re always working to even the playing field via equal work and wage movements.

Yes, parity is a good thing, provided everyone understands what true parity really looks like and abides by the rules that make it so.

In the mental health field, parity is a legislative act — specifically, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, originally enacted in 2008. The law requires that large private health insurance plans (those with more than 50 enrollees) offering mental health and/or substance abuse services do so at the same level as they would other medical benefits without additional management. The 2010 Affordable Care Act extended these measures further to encompass all health insurance providers.

The Benefits of Parity for Mental Health Patients

For patients requiring mental health and substance abuse support services, the direct benefit of parity is accessibility. Estimates show that roughly 84 million Americans currently enjoy parity protection and, in many cases, this protection extends to a full catalog of treatment, habilitative and rehabilitative services.

The parity legislation also extends to cover preventative services including behavioral assessments for young children and depression screenings for adults. And these services are provided at no additional cost thanks to the Affordable Care Act. The act also protects mental health challenges as preexisting conditions, making it unlawful for insurers to deny applicants because of such a condition.

In short, it allows those dealing with mental health issues to be treated as they deserve to be: as patients, not as targets. It erases the social stigmas that surround mental health and substance abuse conditions while helping patients overcome existing financial challenges in order to get the care they need. For patients, this reinforcement can be empowering, as they can now focus on getting the treatment they so desperately need and deserve without allowing unnecessary roadblocks to stand in their way. And that’s a good thing for the entire healthcare field because any movement that improves accessibility for all patients is truly the best definition of parity.

Providing Better Mental Health Care

If you’re searching for ways you can improve care for your behavioral and mental health patients, ICANotes behavioral health EHR may be right for you. Our software is proven to reduce the time and effort required to record electronic health records, saving you time and improving efficiency for your practice. To learn more about ICANotes, please contact our team or request your free trial today.

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