US now requires equal mental health coverage

WASHINGTON - A new Obama administration rule requires insurers to cover treatment for mental health and substance abuse no differently than they do for physical illnesses.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says nearly 60 percent of people with mental health conditions and nearly 90 percent with substance abuse disorders don't receive the treatment they need.

Sebelius says patients seeking mental health or substance abuse care have at times suffered discrimination through higher costs or stricter limits on hospital stays or visits to the doctor.

The Obama administration had pledged to issue a final mental health parity rule as part of its effort to reduce gun violence.

The rule puts into effect legislation signed into law five years ago. Mental health parity also is required under the new Affordable Care Act.

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