A law put in place last year to level the playing field between medical and mental health insurance coverage is having an unintended consequence.

In a new policy move, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida will soon require mental health providers to get prior authorization from the insurer before treating patients. That is, if patients want the services covered. The company says the new policy, which will take effect in October, will help prevent increased costs resulting from the new requirement.

Advocates, however, say the new policy will only increase the stigma attached to mental illness and burden mental health providers. Furthermore, they fear that psychiatrists my choose not to accept the insurer as a result of the rule, limiting patients’ options.

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The Mental Health Parity Act of 2008 requires health insurance plans which include mental health services to utilize the same limits and payment requirements for mental health treatment as they do for traditional medical needs. Previously, individuals were often charged higher co-pays for mental health or had limits imposed on the number of covered visits in a year for such services inconsistent with the rules for medical coverage, reports the Naples (Fla.) Daily News. To read more click here.