Washington, D.C., January 25, 2022 — “When it comes to the ability of Americans to access affordable mental health care for their children, today is an important day. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated an existing mental health and addiction crisis in this country that is actively changing the trajectory of countless young lives. Parents are often forced to wait months for mental health appointments due to inadequate provider networks in their health plans, or go into debt paying for out-of-pocket treatment instead.
“A new report from the Department of Labor (DOL), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and Department of the Treasury provides damning evidence that health plans continue to be out of compliance with the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, which requires them to cover mental health and addiction treatment no more restrictively than physical health treatment.
“Shockingly, not a single plan satisfied the Act’s requirement to complete detailed parity compliance analyses. And we now have solid data to show that practices such as denying coverage for autism treatment, nutritionists for individuals with eating disorders, and Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder are indeed commonplace.
“To combat this growing problem, The Kennedy Forum echoes DOL’s call for Congress to pass language that was included in the House-passed Build Back Better Act that would allow the Department to fine health plans for such blatant parity violations. Multiple administrations—and President Trump’s bipartisan Opioid Commission —have called for Congress to do the same, but to no avail.
“We applaud Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, and staff for their efforts over the past year to increase access to mental health care for American families. The Kennedy Forum has long advocated for stronger parity enforcement measures in both commercial health insurance and Medicaid managed care. Tools like ParityRegistry.org, ParityTrack.org, DontDenyMe.org, model state parity legislation, and webinars such as this one featuring Secretary Walsh have helped policymakers, consumers, and providers to understand the issue and make progress on a local level.
“Today’s historic report now puts health plans on notice that federal regulators will be aggressively examining required parity analyses to ensure compliance with the law, thus increasing access for parents and children who are struggling to cope—particularly in the wake of COVID-19. Not only is it the right thing to do, but with the new report, DOL, HHS, and the Department of the Treasury are also acknowledging that we can either pay for prevention and treatment on the front end, or we can pay with high costs to society on the back end. This progressive approach will benefit all Americans for years to come and usher in a new frontier of civil rights for those with mental health and addiction challenges. We call on all provider groups to spread the word about this new report, participate in Parity Registry, and amplify the Don’t Deny Me campaign to make a difference.”
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. The Kennedy Forum’s “Don’t Deny Me” campaign educates consumers and providers about patient rights under the Federal Parity Law and connects them with essential appeals guidance and resources. To learn more about The Kennedy Forum, please visit www.thekennedyforum.org.