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"It's better late than never."

We echo that sentiment of a new Missouri law aimed at making sure mental health care is covered by insurance at the same level as physical health.

The Missouri Independent reported this past week that under the new law, Missouri is the final state to enforce a federal law designed to ensure parity between mental/physical health coverage. It says state health care plans must meet the requirements of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008.

More specifically, the federal law, signed by then-President George W. Bush, said health insurance plans cannot impose dollar limits or restrictions on mental health treatments, including substance use disorders, that are greater than those for other physical medical conditions.

The federal law isn't perfect. Advocates have pointed out that insurers have found loopholes to exploit it, while states are mostly left to regulate the provisions, the Missouri Independent reported.

But the federal law still goes a long way toward accomplishing its goals, and Missouri's move to codify the federal law is overdue. It's not all that's needed, but it's a good first step.

Some states, including California, have gone further and passed laws aimed at closing the law's gaps.

That might be needed in Missouri, where there have been reports by some people, including Kansas City firefighters, who were limited on the number of times they could see a mental health professional.

"Mental health is a chronic condition. So just like if you have a cardiac condition, you can go see your cardiologist as much as you need to. There's no lifetime or annual limit," Rep. Patty Lewis, D-Kansas City, told the Missouri Independent. "It's not like 'You've gone to your cardiologist three times. Now you're done. You're cut off.' But that's what we see with mental health."

We agree. We hope Missouri's new state law not only creates parity between mental and physical health but continues to erode the stigma that mental health still faces.

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