CHICAGO — On the 10th anniversary of the law requiring parity for coverage of mental health and drug addiction treatment, the American Medical Association (AMA) called on state and federal policymakers to enforce the law’s provisions to help end the opioid epidemic.   

“Ten years ago, policymakers came together to address shortcomings in the way care was provided for those with mental health and/or substance use disorders,” said AMA President-elect Patrice A. Harris, MD, MA, who also chairs the AMA Opioid Task Force. “The law’s much-needed reforms improved opportunities for care and reduced the stigma of having a mental health or substance use disorder. Yet, an overwhelming number of people needing treatment for an addiction are not receiving it. Clearly, we have a long way to go.”

The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 92 percent, or 19.7 million people, with a substance use disorder receive no treatment, and 57 percent, or 46.6 million people, with a mental illness receive no treatment.

“As we strive to improve access to care and reverse the effects of the opioid epidemic, insurers need to be held accountable for complying with their legal obligations,” Dr. Harris said. “This means that health insurance companies must have addiction medicine and psychiatric physicians not only in the network but accepting new patients.” 

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 3, 2008.

Physicians and policymakers can learn more about parity, including how to file a complaint, from resources developed by the American Psychiatric Association (APA): https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/practice/parity; and the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM): https://www.asam.org/advocacy/toolkits/parity. The APA and ASAM are member organizations of the AMA Opioid Task Force

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About the American Medical Association

The American Medical Association is the physicians’ powerful ally in patient care. As the only medical association that convenes 190+ state and specialty medical societies and other critical stakeholders, the AMA represents physicians with a unified voice to all key players in health care.  The AMA leverages its strength by removing the obstacles that interfere with patient care, leading the charge to prevent chronic disease and confront public health crises and, driving the future of medicine to tackle the biggest challenges in health care.