32 States Get A Failing Grade on New Report Cards Scoring Statutes for Mental Health and Addiction Treatment 10 Years After Federal Parity Law | The Kennedy Forum

32 States Get A Failing Grade on New Report Cards Scoring Statutes for Mental Health and Addiction Treatment 10 Years After Federal Parity Law
October 3, 2018

Deaths from drug and alcohol misuse and suicide skyrocket,
yet majority of states fail to provide mental health parity –
prompting American families to take action against illegal insurance denials.

WASHINGTON, October 3, 2018 – Today, at an event recognizing the 10th anniversary of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA), The Kennedy-Satcher Center for Mental Health Equity in the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine, The Kennedy Forum, The Carter Center, and Well Being Trust (WBT) will jointly release “Evaluating State Mental Health and Addiction Parity Statutes,” which assigns failing grades to 32 states for statues designed to ensure equal access to mental health and addiction treatment.

The new state-by-state report cards assess the strength of mental health and substance use disorder parity statutes. Wyoming (F, 10), Arizona (F, 26), Idaho (F, 36), and Indiana (F, 38) received the lowest scores, while Illinois (A, 100), Tennessee (C, 79), Maine (C, 76), Alabama (C, 74), Virginia (C,71), and New Hampshire (C, 71) scored the highest.

“Strong state parity laws are the critical foundation for ensuring enforcement and ending discrimination in coverage of mental health and substance use disorder services,” said Benjamin F. Miller, Psy.D., Chief Strategy Officer, WBT. “Without strong parity laws, it’s basically a lottery as to what kind of care a person might get – there is seemingly zero accountability and little-to-no transparency. Patients, providers, and policymakers often cannot know whether a health plan is providing access to mental health services as it should.”

“Evaluating State Mental Health and Addiction Parity Statutes” assessed key elements of state statutes relating to parity and identified three key issues and recommendations for improvement based on frequent deficiencies found in their analysis of state statutes:

  1. Mental health conditions must be recognized as broadly as “physical” health conditions. As such, states should define mental health conditions to include all disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) or International Classification of Diseases (ICD) with no exclusions. This will ensure the full gamut of mental health conditions are covered as comprehensively as physical diagnoses, like cancer.
  2. Co-pays and out-of-pocket costs must be the same for mental health services as they are for physical health services. As such, states should require that benefit management processes and treatment limitations, specifically non-quantitative treatment limitations (NQTL), are no more restrictive than similar limitations for physical health benefits. Mental health services must also have the same coverage limits as services for the treatment of physical ailments.
  3. States should strengthen enforcement and compliance activities by empowering regulatory agencies to enforce parity laws, including the Federal Parity Law. In addition, states should require monitoring agencies to regularly report on steps taken to enforce compliance and mandate that all health benefit plans submit regular analyses demonstrating compliance with the law.

To address the alarming results of the state-by-state parity report cards, Patrick J. Kennedy, former U.S. Representative, co-sponsor of MHPAEA, and founder of The Kennedy Forum, will conclude the event by announcing “Don’t Deny Me” – a first-of-its-kind consumer action campaign designed to empower American families to fight back against illegal insurance denials of mental health and substance use disorder treatment services and spark a movement that pressures elected officials, insurance commissioners, and attorneys general to enforce parity laws.

“We must break the silence surrounding barriers to care and bring transparency to a system that oppresses those with mental health and substance use disorders,” said Kennedy. “Treatment services shouldn’t be something only the rich can afford and no parent should ever have to face financial ruin to save their child’s life, especially after paying into an insurance plan diligently for years.”

More information about the consumer campaign can be found at DontDenyMe.org.

Watch a livestream of the anniversary event on The Kennedy Forum Facebook page.

The state-by-state parity report cards, as well as a technical report and consumer issue brief can be found at www.ParityTrack.org/Anniversary.

About The Kennedy Forum
Founded in 2013 by former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.), The Kennedy Forum leads a national dialogue on transforming the health care system by uniting mental health advocates, business leaders, and government agencies around a common set of principles, including full implementation of the Federal Parity Law. Launched in celebration of the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s signing of the landmark Community Mental Health Act, the nonprofit aims to achieve health equity by advancing evidence-based practices, policies, and programming for the treatment of mental health and addiction issues. The Kennedy Forum publishes frequent issue briefs and is a repository of other educational resources and tools focused on parity. To learn more and donate, please visit www.thekennedyforum.org.

About Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM)
Founded in 1975, Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) is among the nation’s leading educators of primary care physicians, biomedical scientists and public health professionals. In 2011, MSM was recognized by Annals of Internal Medicine as the nation’s No. 1 medical school in fulfilling a social mission. MSM faculty and alumni are noted for excellence in teaching, research and public policy, as well as exceptional patient care. Morehouse School of Medicine is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award doctoral and master’s degrees. To learn more about programs and donate, please visit

About Well Being Trust
Well Being Trust is a national foundation dedicated to advancing the mental, social, and spiritual health of the nation. Created to include participation from organizations across sectors and perspectives, Well Being Trust is committed to innovating and addressing the most critical mental health challenges facing America, and to transforming individual and community well-being. www.wellbeingtrust.org. Twitter: @WellBeingTrust

About The Carter Center
Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope.

A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 80 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; and improving mental health care. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide. To learn more, please visit www.cartercenter.org.