Nightly News   |  November 08, 2013

Obama to expand mental health treatment access

Under the new rules insurers must cover mental treatments the same way they cover physical ailments regarding copayments, deductibles, doctor visits and hospitalizations. NBC’s Rehema Ellis reports.

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>>> there is more to report on this new health care law . it has to do with mental illness . we learned the new law required health insurance companies to cover mental illness and substance abuse, the same way they cover physical diseases. it is a big deal . only a fraction of people who need those services are currently getting them. we get more from correspondent rehema ellis.

>> reporter: 20-year-old chris valdez was diagnosed ten years ago with bipolar disorder which can lead to dramatic mood swings. even with health insurance his mother julie joyce said the costs have been overwhelming.

>> if you need treatment you can go to the doctor. you have a selection of hospitals. when my son is suffering or in a crisis, i don't have those options. i have to go where the insurance company tells me to go.

>> reporter: in the wake of the school tragedy last december in newtown, connecticut, the white house promised to address gaps in mental health coverage. today, the administration made good on that pledge.

>> good morning, everybody. there is no question we need to expand access to treatment, services and support. in this vein, it's really my great pleasure to share some big news with you today.

>> reporter: under the new rules, insurers must cover mental health treatments the same way they cover medical ailments including copayments, deductibles, and doctor visits. whether the policies are employee-based, individual market plans or obama care, but many are still left out. millions of low income people on medicaid and medicare are not covered under today's new rules. the agency representing the insurance industry responded saying, "health plans have long supported the new rlaw and worked to implement these requirements." some doctors welcome what they call long overdue equality.

>> there is no reason why if you have a disorder of the brain that should be treated differently from a disorder of the brain that causes you to have a seizure. it make no sense.