Coverage of Mental Health and Substance Use Services under the ACA

by Rebecca Farley on August 14, 2012

In 2008, Congress passed the landmark Mental Health Parity and Addictions Equity Act, prohibiting certain insurance plans from imposing limitations on mental health and substance use benefits that are more restrictive than the limitations on medical/surgical benefits. The parity law did not require plans to offer mental health and substance use benefits, but required these benefits to be offered at parity if the plan chose to cover them.

The Affordable Care Act builds on the federal parity law in two ways: 1) by requiring certain types of plans to cover mental health/substance use benefits (as part of the Essential Health Benefits package); and 2) by applying the federal parity law to these plans.

As individuals who are currently uninsured gain health insurance under the ACA, will mental health and substance use treatment benefits be included? If so, must they meet federal parity requirements? Take a look at the chart below to find out.

Source: Data compiled from “Mental Health Parity and Mandated Coverage of Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Services After the ACA,” Congressional Research Service Report R41768.


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