A letter from Dr. Katherine Nordal

Below is the text of the letter that APA Executive Director for Professional Practice Katherine C. Nordal, PhD, sent to members immediately following the passage of mental health parity legislation, announcing the victory.

October 17, 2008

I have remarkable news for you.

Just last week, the U.S. Congress passed the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity & Addiction Equity Act of 2008, otherwise known as mental health parity. We have worked for nearly ten years to see this day arrive — and it could not have happened without the perseverance and dedication of psychologists like you all across this country who led the way in making this law a reality.

When this law takes effect, which for most plans will be January 1, 2010, insurance discrimination against mental health and substance use disorder coverage will end for 113 million Americans.

When this law takes effect, insurance companies will be required to provide parity benefits coverage in EVERY aspect of plan coverage — both in-network and out-of-network. From limits on the number or cost of treatments to co-pays, deductibles and out-of pocket maximums, our patients will no longer face unfair and arbitrary restrictions on their mental health benefits coverage.

And, when this law takes effect, we will take a giant step forward in eliminating the stigma surrounding mental health care and treatment of substance use disorders.

I'm sure you agree that this is a wonderful result for our profession and the people we serve. I can't tell you how delighted I am to be able to share this exciting news in my new role as the APA Executive Director for Professional Practice.

I arrived in Washington to assume my new position full time just six months ago and I am tremendously humbled to follow in the footsteps of Dr. Russ Newman, who so capably directed the mental health parity legislative effort during his tenure. After 28 years in full-time independent practice, I understand the challenges you are facing in your work and I look forward to working closely with you to achieve even more victories like this one in the years to come.

Think with me for a minute about what this parity victory will mean for you and your patients...

...People will no longer be 'cut off' from mental health care by a low and arbitrary number of psychotherapy visits. People will no longer be forced to pay out-of-pocket for the mental health care or substance use disorder treatment they need. And, tens of thousands of people who were 'locked out' will have the opportunity to receive psychological services.

Additionally, if you live in a state that already has parity laws in place, this bill ensures that stronger state parity and other laws will remain in place. If you would like to learn more about how the legislation works, including the specific aspects of coverage affected, visit APA Practice Central.

Despite the tremendous gridlock in our nation's capital and the hundreds of special interest groups vying for Congress' attention, our Government Relations team was successful in convincing Congress to pass our top legislative priority. I'm especially gratified that this bill is one of only two pieces of major health care legislation to move through Congress this decade!

I also want to acknowledge the work of state psychological associations around the country. Their tireless grassroots efforts helped us secure this federal victory.

And, most importantly, I want to commend you! This victory would truly never have been possible without the sustained grassroots involvement of APA Practice Organization members across this country. You sent letters and e-mails. You made phone calls. Many of you made personal visits to talk with members of Congress. Your voices made a critical difference. And for that I cannot thank you enough.

All of us stood on the shoulders of some remarkable Americans who have long crusaded to end discrimination against people with mental illness. We owe a tremendous debt to Senators Pete Domenici and Ted Kennedy, to Representatives Jim Ramstad and Patrick Kennedy, and to the late Senator Paul Wellstone who were, indeed, the architects of this victory.

Thank you again for the role you personally played in advancing mental health parity and making quality mental health care more accessible and more affordable for millions of Americans.

Katherine C. Nordal, PhD
Executive Director for Professional Practice

P.S. Finally, the U.S. Congress has confirmed that the mental health care provided by psychologists is just as important as physical health care. This is a tremendous victory for every American. And, your APA Practice Organization Practice Assessment helped make it possible. Thank you!