New "Parity" For Substance Abuse To Match Physical Health Insurance Coverage Could Help Millions, Says Country's Largest Substance Abuse Treatment Provider, CRC Health Group

CUPERTINO, Calif., Nov. 11, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The new "parity" rules issued Friday by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for substance abuse to match physical health insurance could help millions, the country's largest substance abuse and behavioral treatment provider, CRC Health Group, said today.  The regulations were jointly released by the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury.

Andy Eckert, CEO of CRC Health Group, congratulated Secretary Sebelius and the other departments and said, "Our mission is to help people with substance abuse problems.  By issuing regulations to implement the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and by requiring enforcement of the bold actions the law provided, we've taken a major step forward to reach the twenty million Americans HHS says need but do not receive alcohol and substance abuse treatment. Only one in ten Americans who needs treatment now obtains it. It's time the nation recognizes that addiction is a chronic illness like cancer or diabetes and needs the same quality of treatment. "

Jerry Rhodes, Chief Operating Officer of CRC Health Group, added, "The regulations are very good news for all who work hard in the addiction treatment field and for everyone afflicted with substance abuse.  The final regulations, which now provide that 'parity applies to intermediate levels of care received in residential treatment or intensive outpatient settings,' are far better than the interim regulations.  HHS did a lot of homework and listened to the field. The Parity Coalition, NAPHS (National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems) were critical players in advocating for the inclusion of intermediate level of care."

Rhodes added, "President Obama and HHS stated that recent mass gun violence was a factor in pressing completion of the regulations to expand access to mental health and substance abuse treatment.  The regulations will have a helpful impact on our national health."

Dr. Philip Herschman, CRC's Chief Clinical Officer, conducted a meeting of CRC's Clinical Advisory board, consisting of many of America's top addiction scientists and providers, and said today, "While the regulations are very good news, they are just a beginning.  We have to see if the enforcement is carried out effectively to assure equal ability to obtain addiction services as physical health care. Both Parity and the ACA provide for mental health insurance coverage - including addiction treatment - in some form for upwards of 60 million Americans."

Dr. Herschman explained, "The intent was to end discriminatory practices by ensuring mental health coverage that mirrored services as they existed in general medicine such as inpatient, outpatient, emergency services, and medications.  I am glad they upgraded from the interim rule that excluded a residential level of care; it was wrongly perceived as a step down from inpatient. Some major insurance companies had used this to 'red line' coverage for much-needed residential addiction treatment."   Herschman added that "the ACA defines substance abuse as a chronic disease and does provide opportunities for better integration of treatment services with primary medical care, as well as earlier intervention opportunities, critical benefits of the reform."

Former U.S. Drug Czar (National Drug Policy Director), Four-Star Gen. Barry McCaffrey (ret), senior advisor to CRC Health Group, said, "While the regulations took a long time to get here, they give us a historic opportunity to reach the twenty million people who need treatment.  When we first provided federal employee addiction services parity as an executive order under President Clinton in January 2001, while I was National Drug Policy Director, we said that we ultimately wanted to see private insurance carry the same equal benefits.  Now, this hope has become a reality.  I'm also pleased that the regulations apply to veterans," said McCaffrey, who before he was Drug Czar, was Commander of SouthCom (all US forces in Latin America) and led the successful Left Hook assault in Iraq. 

The regulations cover both the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and the 2010 Affordable Care Act.  The Parity Act requires equal private insurance benefits for physical illnesses and substance addiction, while the ACA says that mental health and addiction services must be one of ten benefits in insurance plans. 

In addition to insuring intermediate levels of care received in residential treatment or intensive outpatient settings, the regulations provide that co-pays, medical visits, medical facility stays, benefit levels, and coverage provisions must now be equally strong for both physical health and addiction.  "Enforcement of the new parity will be a key element," Rhodes said.

Useful links:
CRC Health Group:
www.crchealth.com 
HHS release on new parity regulations (links to fact sheet and text of regulations in release):
http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2013pres/11/20131108b.html

Contact: Bob Weiner 301-283-0821 or 202-306-1200, weinerpublic@comcast.net

SOURCE Robert Weiner Associates and CRC Health Group



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