Rep. Bilirakis Coauthors Bill to Enforce Equal Coverage Requirements for Mental Health Services
WASHINGTON – Representative Gus Bilirakis introduced bipartisan legislation to improve health plans’ and insurers’ compliance with mental health parity laws, which require that mental health coverage cannot be more restrictive than coverage for other medical care. He was joined by Democratic Reps. Donald Norcross and Katie Porter in introducing this bill.
“As part of removing the stigma for treating mental illness, we must ensure that mental health needs are recognized as legitimate healthcare issues. One way to do that is to ensure parity between coverage for healthcare and mental healthcare services—which happens to be the law. For far too long, I have heard patient accounts of some bad insurance actors who are blatantly ignoring the Mental Health Parity law and providing inadequate mental health coverage. I am proud to work with my colleagues on this bipartisan effort to enforce the existing law,” said Congressman Bilirakis.
“As long as mental health services are not treated as equal to other types of medical care, people struggling with mental illness in the 45th District and across the country will face unnecessary barriers to accessing potentially life-saving care,” Congresswoman Porter said. “I’m proud to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure compliance with current law requiring equal treatment of mental and medical care—it is past time to end this disparity once and for all.”
The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act was signed into law in 2008, but more than a decade later, health plans and insurers are still violating the law with plans that do not provide equal coverage for mental and medical care. The Mental Health Parity Compliance Act would require health plans and insurers to conduct in-depth analyses to ensure that plans are compliant and would direct the Secretaries of both the Department of Health and Human Services and Labor to request these analyses if there are patient complaints that the plans are not compliant. Under the bill, 50 plans and insurers will be selected at random for an annual compliance investigation, and the report from this investigation will be submitted to Congress.
“Every single year we’re losing more Americans to the opioid epidemic than we did in all of the Vietnam War and, unfortunately, suicide is also on the rise in nearly every state in our nation,” said Congressman Norcross, Vice-Chair of the Bipartisan Addiction Task Force. “While mental health parity is rightfully the law of the land, our enforcement mechanisms are severely lacking and companies aren’t fully complying with the law. Along with my Parity Enforcement Act, the Mental Health Parity Compliance Act will help our friends and neighbors struggling with mental health and substance-abuse disorders by making sure the promise of parity is a reality. Our healthcare system should be working for all Americans – no matter if their condition is physical or mental.”
The Mental Health Parity Compliance Act is based on a best-practice approach that has been enacted in state legislatures in Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, New Jersey, and Tennessee. It protects patients and ensures that those required to provide health insurance are following a law intended to support access to critical mental health services. Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) introduced the bill in the Senate, and the legislation received support from the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, Mental Health America, the American Occupational Therapy Association, and the Mental Health Liaison Group, which includes more than 50 member organizations representing consumers, families, providers advocating to strengthen access to high-quality mental and behavioral health care.