Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Shutdowns, Obamacare and Parity: What Does it Mean?

If you’ve been following the news you know that the federal government is currently in partial shutdown mode. You likely also know, that the tension began when House conservatives attempted to pass a spending bill with a rider that would defund Obamacare. And compromises on spending have often included provisions that would delay the implementation of Healthcare Reform. So what does this mean for the EDC and for eating disorders?

The first very serious problem is that operating under a partial shutdown (or even a short-term continuing resolution, which is expected to be the solution reached through Congressional negotiations) is  the lack of sufficient funding for the Department of Health and Human Services. Currently there are not any robust eating disorders programs at HHS. The EDC has long advocated that HHS increase funding into eating disorders research and prevention programs. Operating at a minimal budget level makes it near impossible for HHS to increase its eating disorders programs.  Additionally sequestration (the across the board funding cuts) hurt the federal government's ability to focus on eating disorders policy. The current spending levels for eating disorders coverage are too little, and too little attention is currently given to eating disorders by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  The EDC urges Congress to pass a robust appropriations bill funding HHS and and to direct HHS to increase research and prevention programs related to eating disorders.

The second issue to be aware is that the Exchanges opened for enrollment (see more here) on October 1.  Coverage purchased through the Exchanges will take effect on January 1. We are continuing to monitor the state plans, to work to ensure that they cover eating disorders at parity. It is imperative that the plans offered through the Exchanges cover eating disorders treatment. Most of the delays that are currently being discussed revolve around a device tax, that wouldn’t effect eating disorders coverage. Another compromise expected to be announced on Tuesday would involve Secretary Sebelius certifying that individuals receiving Obamacare subsidies meet the required income levels, again this would not have an impact on eating disorders coverage.

Another part of the operation of the Exchanges and additional insurance coverage, is the confusion over Mental Health Parity. We are continuing the work we’ve been doing on Mental Health Parity (see more here). The regulations still aren’t out, but we’ve heard from insiders on the Hill that the regulations are expected at the end of this year. Although, it remains unclear whether the timing will change given the recent shutdown. In addition to the two letters sent from Congress to Secretary Sebelius we also continue to put pressure on HHS to clarify that eating disorders covered at Parity

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