- March 13, 2019
Last week, Chief Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California released a scathing ruling in the class action lawsuit Wit v. United Behavioral Health (UBH). The Court ruled that UBH used flawed medical necessity criteria to wrongfully deny coverage for mental health and addiction treatment for thousands of beneficiaries, driven by a financial incentive to suppress costs. Read more here.
Former U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, founder of The Kennedy Forum, captured the significance of the case, calling it the “Brown v. Board of Education for the mental health movement.” The ruling shines a much-needed spotlight on discriminatory practices used by insurers against those with mental health and substance use disorders.
The Kennedy Forum is now working to spread the word about this landmark case to advocates, policymakers, and other key stakeholders in partnership with Mental Health America (MHA) and the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI).
Yesterday, a series of letters signed by former Reps. Patrick J. Kennedy and Jim Ramstad, lead sponsors of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (the Federal Parity Law), NAMI CEO Mary Giliberti, and MHA CEO Paul Gionfriddo were sent to state and federal officials, including state attorneys general, insurance commissioners, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Other recipients included the heads of committees and subcommittees with primary jurisdiction over implementation and oversight of the Federal Parity Law – the Senate Committee on Health, Energy, Labor, and Pensions and the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations – and contacts at employee health benefit plan advocacy organizations such as the American Benefits Council (ABC) and the ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC).
Letters were also sent to contacts at Fortune 100 companies. Employers that self-fund their health plans and hire an administrator such as UBH share a fiduciary responsibility to ensure plan compliance with the Federal Parity Law.
We call on the key stakeholders identified above to immediately prioritize actions to end discriminatory practices against those seeking treatment for mental health and substance use concerns by holding insurers accountable for illegal denials.
Wit v. United Behavioral Health is the catalyst we need for lasting change. We must all now do our parts to ensure mental health equity for all.
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Just as President Kennedy rallied the nation to dream big and set audacious goals 50 years ago, The Kennedy Forum seeks to set a new standard for the future of health care in the United States.
Our mission is big, and the stakes are clear. We seek to unite the health care system, and rally the mental health community around a common set of principles: Fully implement the 2008 parity law, bring business leaders and government agencies together to eliminate issues of stigma, work with providers to guarantee equal access to care, ensure that policymakers have the tools they need to craft better policy, and give consumers a way to understand their rights.