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President announces mental health, other measures to prevent gun violence

January 17, 2013

President Obama yesterday announced a plan to reduce gun violence and increase access to mental health services in the wake of last month's deadly shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, CT. Among other actions, the administration issued a letter to state health officials making clear that Medicaid plans must comply with mental health parity requirements. It also plans to issue final regulations governing how existing group health plans that offer mental health services must cover them at parity under the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, and a final rule defining essential health benefits under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, including requirements for small group and individual health plans to cover mental health benefits at parity with medical and surgical benefits. As part of the plan, the Department of Health and Human Services also issued a letter clarifying the parameters for health care providers regarding warning law enforcement authorities about threats of violence. The administration also plans to issue guidance clarifying that the ACA does not prohibit health care providers from talking to their patients about gun safety.