Historic Opportunity to Expand Care | The Kennedy Forum

The Kennedy Forum Leads Advocates in Supporting Historic Opportunity to Expand Access to Care 
July 25, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Kennedy Forum applauds the Biden Administration and U.S. Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Treasury for today’s release of proposed rulemaking for the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (Federal Parity Act). Increasing access to mental health and substance use disorder coverage by eliminating discrimination in the coverage of these conditions has been a cornerstone of The Kennedy Forum’s work since its founding in 2013. The proposed rules would put much-needed teeth into the Federal Parity Act regulations, which are critical to saving lives amidst our nation’s ongoing mental health and substance use crisis. Specifically, the proposal would require plans to act when there are disparities in consumers’ ability to access care, require data reporting to evaluate plans’ compliance, and would create new rules regarding “network composition” to address whether individuals can access care within plan networks. For too long, federal and state agencies have been hamstrung by the inadequacies of previous regulations, which have proven too weak to properly hold insurers accountable for ongoing violations of the Federal Parity Act. We urge the Administration to move swiftly to finalize the proposed rules.

The Kennedy Forum’s founder and lead author of the Federal Parity Act, former U.S. Representative Patrick J. Kennedy remarked, “There has not been a greater opportunity to expand access to mental health and substance use care, since I authored the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act with my late colleague Representative Jim Ramstad and stood in the oval office while President George W. Bush signed the legislation into law. I applaud the Biden Administration for taking this urgently needed step to properly enforce the Federal Parity Act and create clear, straightforward rules to increase access to care for the millions of Americans who need – and deserve – lifesaving treatment.” 

Throughout this rulemaking process, The Kennedy Forum will continue to lead on parity and will work with our advocacy partners to submit comments strongly supporting the proposed rules. The Kennedy Forum’s unique parity expertise and longstanding leadership have led to a dramatic increase in parity enforcement over the last few years, with nearly half of states now requiring health plans to submit parity documentation to state regulators demonstrating their compliance. Once finalized, these new proposed rules, which come after years of sustained advocacy from The Kennedy Forum and our partners,  will help prevent unjust limitations on care, unjust denials, and discriminatory practices by health plans. 

“Better coverage for mental health and substance use care services is urgently needed to reduce the tremendous burden these illnesses have on individuals, families, communities, and our entire country,” commented Rebecca Bagley, President and CEO of The Kennedy Forum. “The proposed rules provide significantly greater clarity on what health plans must do to comply with the Federal Parity Act, including ensuring equitable reimbursement and provider networks. Once finalized, the revised parity rules will help Americans get the coverage they need and employers prepare for the next generation of workplace mental health.” 

Mental health and substance use are no longer issues that hide in the shadows – they affect families in every community across the country. Fifteen years ago, the Federal Parity Act promised to end health plans’ discriminatory limitations on mental health and substance use disorder treatment, which for generations contributed to the stigmatization and inability for millions of Americans to access urgently needed treatment. These new proposed regulations bring us closer to fully implementing the Federal Parity Act and addressing high post-pandemic rates of suicide, overdose, eating disorders and other mental health and addition concerns. The Kennedy Forum is committed to helping finalize the proposed rules and ensuring that mental health is treated as essential health. 

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