Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Mental Health Advocates Hail Parity Provisions in SCHIP

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Mental Health Advocates Hail Parity Provisions in SCHIP

Article excerpt

Enactment of the new State Children's Health Insurance Program is an important step forward for mental health parity for children, advocates say.

Under SCHIP, recently signed into law by President Barack Obama, the states are required to ensure mental health parity in their coverage offerings. Previously, the law only required states to match 75% of their physical health coverage.

The legislation (H.R. 2), which received broad support in both the House and Senate, was signed early last month. SCHIP is now reauthorized through September 2013 and will provide coverage to the 6.7 million low-income children now covered by the program, as well as 4.1 million new children.

"But this bill is only a first step," President Obama said at a signing ceremony for the SCHIP law. "The way I see it, providing coverage to 11 million children through [SCHIP] is a down payment on my commitment to cover every single American. And it is just one component of a much broader effort to finally bring our health care system into the 21st century."

On the same day he signed the SCHIP law, the president directed the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to rescind a Bush administration directive that limited the flexibility of states to set higher income eligibility standards for their SCHIP programs.

Under the newly enacted SCHIP law, states are allowed to cover children in families up to 300% of the federal poverty level while retaining access to full federal matching funds. It also gives states the option to cover prenatal care for pregnant women. However, it also requires states to phase out coverage of any low-income parents and childless adults currently covered under the program.

The new law eliminates the 5-year waiting period for legal immigrant children and pregnant women to gain access to SCHIP benefits. In addition, states now will have the option of providing dental-only coverage to children who have private insurance, which often has limited coverage for dental services.

In an effort to measure and improve health care quality, the law calls for development of an initial core set of child health quality measures for children enrolled in SCHIP and Medicaid by Jan. 1, 2010. The measures would be designed to assess the effectiveness and availability of preventive services, prenatal care, and treatments for acute and chronic conditions. …

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