WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Kennedy Forum submitted public comments on the Department of Health and Human Services, Employee Benefits Security Administration, and the Internal Revenue Service’s (the “Departments”) new proposed rules to the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (the Federal Parity Act). These comments were endorsed by the Mental Health Liaison Group, a Washington-DC based coalition of more than 100 leading national mental health organizations. This action comes 15 years after former President George W. Bush signed into law the Federal Parity Act with The Kennedy Forum’s Founder Patrick J. Kennedy at his side. Then-Representative Kennedy was the lead co-author of this bill and has worked since its passage to ensure implementation and enforcement of the act to ensure more Americans can access the mental health and substance use disorder (MH/SUD) care they need.
“15 years ago, when we passed the Federal Parity Act our country was in the midst of the Great Recession and collective despair. Today, we find our world in the midst of new tragedies from the children’s mental health crisis, to the COVID-19 pandemic, to the war in Ukraine, the unprecedented barbaric acts of terrorism against Israel, to the political polarization here at home. To meet the tragedies of our day, I urge the Biden Administration to finalize strong parity rules that contain no exceptions with the same urgency we passed the original 2008 law,” said former US Representative Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI). “It is with deep gratitude to the Biden Administration that The Kennedy Forum submits comments to the proposed rules to the Federal Parity Act, which, if finalized, would put us closer to achieving the full promise of parity.”
The Kennedy Forum and Mental Health Liaison Group’s comments declared strong support for key sections of the proposed rules including the Departments’ proposed:
- Focus on ensuring equitable access to MH/SUD services as a core purpose of the Federal Parity Act;
- Requirements ensuring that health plans cover meaningful MH/SUD benefits;
- Data collection requirements to prevent discriminatory non-quantitative treatment limitations (NQTLs); and
- Stronger rules on inadequate reimbursement rates that result in inadequate networks.
The Group also offered feedback to further strengthen the proposed rules. Most importantly, The Kennedy Forum and the Mental Health Liaison Group strongly urge the Biden Administration to reject harmful exceptions to the stronger proposed rules that, if they remain, are likely to be exploited by many health plans. These exceptions threaten to undermine key parts of the otherwise-strong proposed rules, limiting their ability to increase access to needed care.
“The Kennedy Forum is proud to be joined by our Mental Health Liaison Group colleagues in offering strong support and additional feedback to the Department’s proposed rules to the Federal Parity Act. The mental health and addiction advocacy community is united in our mission to finalize these rules on behalf of families across the country who are demanding better access to care,” said The Kennedy Forum’s President and CEO Rebecca O. Bagley.
October 17 marks the final day to submit public comments on the rules just as The Kennedy Forum’s Alignment for Progress October 3 and 4th conference has concluded. Department of Labor Assistant Secretary Lisa Gomez of the Employee Benefits Security Administration spoke at the conference alongside other mental health leaders to discuss what comes next for parity after the rulemaking process.