The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, signed by President George W. Bush, requires doctors and insurers to treat mental illness the same as physical illness.
Sebelius made the announcement to applause at the Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy in Atlanta.
The move "finally puts mental health and behavioral health on equal footing," Sebelius said.
The "incredibly important law, combined with the Affordable Care Act, will expand and protect behavioral health benefits for more than 62 million Americans," Sebelius said. "People who either have insurance coverage now and have no mental health coverage or where the Affordable Care Act fills in those gaps for people who have no insurance at all, they will be able to access affordable care with mental health and substance abuse benefits."
She called it "the largest expansion of behavioral health benefits in a generation."
When I later asked my wife about it (she once had an administrative job working in a hospital), she said that the term covers more than mental health, encompassing such areas as addiction, substance abuse and developmental disorders that affect mental functioning.
The explanations of the term I have found on the Web have tended to be rather nebulous and variable; perhaps this reflects an evolution in the way it is being used. To my mind, it has a rather euphemistic Orwellian ring, although I can see that as synonyms go, 'mental health' is rather restrictive.