Healthcare Ruling Advocates for Coverage of Mental Health, Addiction Treatment
A pivotal court ruling last week found that a health insurance company violated the Federal Parity Law which requires equal treatment of mental illnesses by insurance companies.
Although addiction was classified as a disease since the 1950s by the American Medical Association, there still surrounds much stigma around people who abuse drugs. For far too long, insurance companies and healthcare providers have treated people with substance use disorders like they are bad people who make bad choices.
Last week, a ruling in the case of Wit vs. United Behavioral Health (UBH) concluded that UBH used broken medical review criteria to wrongly reject claims of more than 50,000 people who were attempting to get mental health and addiction treatment.
While the denial of treatment would never be tolerated for diseases such as cancer or heart disease, insurance companies deny treatment to people with mental illness and substance use disorder all the time. This ruling brings light to the unfair prejudice placed on those who are trying to get sober and better their lives.
UBH Manipulates Guidelines
The ruling found that UBH was manipulating their coverage guidelines to bypass the Federal Parity Law. This law, established in 2008, requires insurers to cover mental illnesses such as depression and addiction in the same way they do illnesses of the body such as cancer or heart disease. Violation of the Federal Parity Law was found to be an important method for UBH to keep benefit costs low.
The court ruled that UBH’s guidelines were not only denying coverage for mental health and addiction, but they were also reducing the level of care of patients by removing them from residential treatment programs too early. Since insurance companies as a whole are not professionally qualified to call the shots on a person’s recovery, they should not be able to determine the level of care individuals receive.
The ruling should speak loudly to insurers that there should be no discrimination against people with mental illness or substance use disorders, as both conditions are chronic, life or death situations. The case of Wit. vs. United Behavioral Health should provoke a shift in how the public and health care providers view addiction.
Addiction does not discriminate and neither should health insurance companies. With as many as 19.7 million American adults battling a substance use disorder, it should be viewed as a health emergency. Those who abuse drugs deserve a second chance at life. After all, they are not bad people. They are suffering from a chronic, progressive, and fatal disease.