Nordal delivers psychologists’ concerns at mental health parity conference

APA Executive Director for Professional Practice Katherine C. Nordal, PhD, addresses the potential impact of implementing mental health parity on psychologists and their patients

by Public Relations Staff

July 28, 2010 — Katherine C. Nordal, PhD, represented psychologists and the American Psychological Association (APA) as an invited speaker at a recent conference that brought together the major stakeholders concerned with the implementation of mental health parity.

Organizers of the June 24–25 “Wellstone-Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addictions Equity Act: Implications for All Stakeholders” conference invited Dr. Nordal, APA Executive Director for Professional Practice, to participate in a panel discussion of health care providers comprised of representatives of psychology, psychiatry and medicine. Other stakeholders included consumer groups, employer benefits groups, and payers, such as insurance companies.

Nordal was asked to specifically address the potential impact of implementing the Wellstone-Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addictions Equity Act on psychologists and the patients they treat.

Nordal commended the parity law and its regulations, which are intended to end benefits discrimination against patients seeking and needing mental health and substance use disorder treatment. While there are ambiguities in the law that need to be resolved over time, Nordal said, she cautioned that insurers need to “do the right thing” now regarding their compliance with the law. The APA and the APA Practice Organization will continue to stand up to insurers and strongly support parity implementation consistent with the law, Nordal said.

Ben Miller, PsyD, of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, also participated on the provider panel. Dr. Miller addressed the opportunity that parity provides for a redesign of primary care – how health services are delivered to patients so to seamlessly incorporate behavioral and mental health services and providers.

Following the conference, Drs. Nordal and Miller participated in an invitation-only meeting for conference speakers with Richard Frank, PhD, deputy assistant secretary for policy and evaluation at the Department of Health and Human Services.

“This was a rare opportunity for us to convey psychologists’ concerns regarding parity implementation directly to a key administration official,” Nordal said.

As a tie in to the conference, Nordal wrote a post for APA’s public education blog, Your Mind, Your Body, about what people with insurance may encounter when trying to use their mental health benefits under the new parity law. Nordal cautioned that they may still have to be proactive to get their full coverage. 

The conference was held in Baltimore and hosted by URAC, a healthcare accreditation and education organization, and Hayes Inc., a health technology research and consulting company.