The time for equal access to mental health care

The concept behind parity is pretty simple: People should have the same access to mental health treatment that they have for their physical health. A law was passed in 2008 (the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, commonly known as the Federal Parity Law) that requires insurers to cover illnesses of the brain (such as schizophrenia, depression, and addiction) no more restrictively than they cover illnesses of the body (such as heart conditions or diabetes).

Unfortunately, that concept has taken far too long to become reality in many states, including Georgia. The federal law left it up to each state to determine how to enforce the law. Over ten years later, there is no clear process in place for Georgians who believe they have been denied parity to seek recourse.

A working group of Georgia nonprofits and allies worked together to make the Mental Health Parity Act the law in Georgia in 2022, but the struggle for equal a access to care has not ended, just moved into another more complicated phase.

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There are a lot of special interest groups who have a financial stake in making sure parity in Georgia is not realized. Until Georgia’s citizens are better able to speak to their legislators about how important access to mental health support is, we may never achieve parity here.

Parity is the law in Georgia. It is time for it to become a reality: Enforce Enforcement.

 

Parity Webinar, Friday November 13, 2020

Georgians are regularly unable to afford or access the preventive mental health and substance use services or treatment that they need. State and federal laws require that most insurance plans provide equal coverage, sometimes called “parity,” for behavioral health services when compared with treatment for other medical conditions. Improving and enforcing these laws would help Georgians who have private or public health insurance more easily access behavioral health services and have the services covered by their insurance. 

During this interactive town hall event, participants: 

·Learned why insurance parity is critical to accessing behavioral health treatment services

·Identified actions people can take if they experience a denial of coverage

·Had an opportunity to share your own experiences with parity

·Gained tools to spread the word about parity with your networks

·Heard tips about advocating for parity with state legislators and other policymakers

Speakers/facilitators:

Laura Colbert, Executive Director, Georgians for a Healthy Future
Alyssa Green, Outreach and Education Manager, Georgians for a Healthy Future
Helen Robinson, Associate Director, Public Policy, Mental Health Program, The Carter Center