Mental Health and Addiction Parity: 
Ensuring Equal Coverage in Medicaid and Marketplace Plans

A webinar from The Kennedy Forum Featuring U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra
March 2022

Presented in partnership with the National Association of Behavioral Healthcare (NABH)

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated an existing mental health crisis in this country. One that is fueling soaring rates of depression and anxiety, driving fatal overdoses, and changing the trajectory of countless young lives. Awareness of this impact is not enough. People need better access to quality, affordable mental health and addiction care now.

Unfortunately, until recently, enforcement of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, which requires health plans to cover mental health and addiction treatment no more restrictively than physical health treatment, has long been weak and uneven across the nation, as indicated by recent reports from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). Much attention has been placed on the Department of Labor’s efforts to enforce parity in employer-sponsored plans, thus overlooking the critical role the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) plays in helping to ensure parity in Medicaid managed care plans, Alternative Benefit Plans, Children’s Health Insurance Programs, ACA marketplace plans, and self-funded state and local government plans. These types of plans cover millions of Americans, including a disproportionate number of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and children.

Join The Kennedy Forum’s latest webinar to hear directly from HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra about the department’s new parity efforts. Other esteemed panelists, including former U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, lead author of the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, will join in this important conversation about the future of mental health care.

Focus Areas:

  • New statutory requirements requiring many health plans to conduct detailed parity analyses
  • Common parity violations and how they inhibit access to care
  • How HHS is enforcing parity in collaboration with states
  • Generally accepted standards of care and the impact of Wit v. United Behavioral Health
  • Gaps in the Parity Act, including self-funded state and local plan opt outs and the lack of parity requirements in Medicare and traditional Medicaid

Featured Speaker

Xavier Becerra
Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Xavier Becerra is the 25th Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and the first Latino to hold the office in the history of the United States. As Secretary, he will carry out President Biden’s vision to build a healthy America, and his work will focus on ensuring that all Americans have health security and access to healthcare. Throughout his career, the Secretary has made it his priority to ensure that Americans have access to the affordable healthcare they need to survive and thrive – from his early days as a legal advocate representing individuals with mental illness, to his role as the Attorney General of the state of California. Secretary Becerra served 12 terms in Congress as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. During his tenure, he was the first Latino to serve as a member of the powerful Committee on Ways and Means, he served as Chairman of his party’s caucus, and as the Ranking Member of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Health.


David Lloyd
Senior Policy Advisor, The Kennedy Forum
David Lloyd focuses on a range of behavioral health policy issues, but has devoted much of his time to improving enforcement of the federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and state-level parity laws. Previously, Mr. Lloyd was Vice President at Voices for Illinois Children and Director of its Fiscal Policy Center. Mr. Lloyd also has served as a Legislative Assistant to U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow. He has a bachelor’s in History from Cornell University and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.


Former U.S. Rep Patrick J Kennedy
Founder, The Kennedy Forum
During his time in Congress, Patrick J. Kennedy was the lead author of the landmark Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (Federal Parity Law), which requires insurers to cover treatment for mental health and substance use disorders no more restrictively than treatment for illnesses of the body. As founder of The Kennedy Forum, he now unites advocates, policymakers, and business leaders to advance evidence-based practices and policies in mental health and addiction. In 2017 he was appointed to the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. He currently serves as co-chair of the Mental Health & Suicide Prevention National Response to COVID-19, an initiative of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, and co-chair of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Behavioral Health Integration Task Force.

Additional panelist information coming soon.

Special thanks to participating sponsor, Ascellus.