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Senate Finance Committee Releases Parity Language

Monday the U.S. Senate Finance Committee released language designed to improve enforcement of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (Parity). The committee has been working on an omnibus mental health and substance use disorder for many months and the Parity language was the last language to be released.

While the proposed language enhances chances for clarity around Parity enforcement, it does not include several key factors NAATP and the SUD field were hoping for. All aspects of the bill were agreed to on a bi-partisan basis, making passage possible in the coming weeks.

The proposal would:

  • Direct the Government Accountability Office to examine Medicaid payment rates for behavioral health care vs. rates for physical care, as well as Medicare patient access to addiction treatment.
  • Require Medicare to issue guidance to health care providers, detailing options for patients in need of substance use disorder treatment.
  • Improve Medicare and Medicaid provide

While the proposal would enhance coverage for Medicaid covered individuals, it does not give the Department of Labor the authority to impose fines on insurance companies who fail to comply with the law passed in 2008.

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 required most private health plans to cover mental health and substance use care at the same cost and scope as physical care.

But in a recent report to Congress, the Department of Labor found widespread noncompliance, with many health plans’ coverage of mental health care services less comprehensive than required.

Congress gave the Labor Department little authority to enforce the law. It can only ask insurers to voluntarily comply. And it has only one investigator per 12,500 plans.

NAATP will continue to advocate for full enforcement of Parity and encourage Congress to provide the tools necessary for the Department of Labor to effectively enforce the law.