Medicare beneficiaries are currently limited to just 190 days of inpatient psychiatric hospital care in their lifetime. No other Medicare specialty inpatient hospital service has this type of arbitrary cap on benefits. The 190-day lifetime limit is problematic for patients being treated in psychiatric hospitals as they may easily exceed the 190 days if they have a chronic mental illness.

It is important to end discrimination – in all its forms – against individuals with mental illnesses. That is why the National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems is advocating elimination of this provision.

Eliminating the Medicare 190-day lifetime limit will equalize Medicare mental health coverage with private health insurance coverage and expand beneficiary choice of inpatient psychiatric care providers. It will also increase access to essential treatment for the most seriously ill and help to improve continuity of care.

Legislation to address this issue that is now being considered by Congress builds on historic laws Congress has already passed (including the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and the Medicare Mental Health Copayment Equity Act). This measure has garnered strong support from consumers, providers, hospitals, and organizations representing seniors.