The White House

Office of the National Drug Control Policy

Statement from White House Drug Policy Director Kerlikowske on New Rule Requiring Insurance Coverage for Substance Use and Mental Health Disorders

Washington, D.C. –Today, Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), issued the following statement in response to a Federal Register notice published today requiring insurance companies to provide parity in coverage for treatment for substance use and mental health disorders:

“Today’s action builds on the historic momentum we’ve achieved toward treating our Nation’s drug problem as a public health issue, not just a criminal justice issue. For decades, science has clearly demonstrated that addiction is a chronic disease of the brain that can be successfully prevented and treated - not a moral failure on the part of the individual. Evidence, compassion, and sound judgment require us to do everything possible to ensure our healthcare system provides the same level of medical coverage for substance use disorders as for other chronic diseases, like cancer or diabetes.

These rules will make a real difference for millions of people by ending discrimination against those who suffer from substance use and mental health disorders, significantly expanding access to treatment services, and improving the ability of healthcare providers to identify the symptoms and treat problematic drug use before it becomes a chronic condition. We applaud Secretary Sebelius for her tireless advocacy on behalf of the many Americans who have been touched by substance use and mental health disorders, and we look forward to continuing our work to reduce drug use and its consequences in America.”

According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 23 million Americans were in need of treatment for a  substance use disorder, yet only 2.5 million—about 1 in 10—actually received the treatment they need. Today’s rule, made possible by the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA), makes it easier for those Americans to get the care they need by prohibiting certain discriminatory practices that limit insurance coverage for behavioral health treatment and services. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) significantly extends the reach of MHPAEA’s requirements. Starting in 2014, the ACA will require all small group and individual market plans created before March 23, 2010, to comply with Federal parity requirements. Qualified Health Plans offered through the Health Insurance Marketplaces in every state must include coverage for mental health and substance use disorders as one of the ten categories of Essential Health Benefits, and that coverage must comply with the Federal parity requirements set forth in MHPAEA.

For more information on Obama Administration efforts to reduce drug use and its consequences, visit: www.WhiteHouse.gov/ONDCP

For additional information on the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act go to:  http://beta.samhsa.gov/health-reform/parity

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