Warner, Kaine call for full implementation of mental health parity law

congressU.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine joined U.S. Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Chris Murphy (D-CT) and a bipartisan group of 20 other Senators in calling on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to take immediate, overdue action to fully implement and enforce the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA).

In a letter addressed to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and DOL Secretary Thomas E. Perez, the Senators emphasized that implementation of MHPAEA – a law enacted more than seven years ago to ensure that health insurance plans cover behavioral and physical health equally – has been incomplete and inconsistent. The Senators warned that parity is still not a reality for individuals living with mental illness and addiction, and that health plans routinely refuse to disclose medical management information making it impossible for consumers and providers to determine if the plans are treating behavioral and physical health equally.

Noting that HHS and DOL are chiefly responsible for implementation and enforcement of the law, Warner, Kaine and the 22 other Senators requested that the agencies conduct thorough audits and issue additional parity guidance so that individuals seeking recovery and treatment for mental health disorders and substance abuse can access the benefits promised to them under MHPAEA.

U.S. Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chris Coons (D-DE), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Rob Portman (R-OH), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) also signed onto the letter.

The Senators wrote, “We are writing to urge you to take immediate action to implement and enforce the MHPAEA. It has now been over 7 years since MHPAEA was passed and signed into law by President Bush, but our constituents continue to report denials of care and great difficulties in accessing substance use and mental health disorder treatment and services. We look forward to working together to ensure individuals in and seeking recovery from substance use and mental health disorders can access the benefits promised to them under the law.”

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