Committee Health Leaders Applaud Biden Proposal to Expand Access to Mental and Behavioral Health Care

WASHINGTON – Today, Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03) and Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee Ranking Member Mark DeSaulnier (CA-10) applauded the Biden administration’s proposed rule to strengthen parity requirements for mental health and substance use disorder care.

Committee Democrats, led by Ranking Members Scott and DeSaulnier, have championed legislation—including the Mental Health Matters Act—to secure mental and behavioral health parity, which is the principle that health care coverage for mental health and substance use disorder services should be equal to coverage for medical and surgical services.

“In the more than two decades following the enactment of the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996, federal law has sought to address the discriminatory treatment of behavioral health by group health plans and insurers through the principle of parity—that coverage of behavioral health care should be no more restrictive than coverage of medical and surgical care,” the Ranking Members wroteThe Proposed Rules make a valuable addition to the current Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) regulations by, for the first time, articulating a clear statement of the ‘fundamental purpose’ of federal parity law and instructing plans and issuers to interpret the statute and its implementing regulations consistent with this purpose.”

“The Proposed Rules’ emphasis on access to behavioral health care is a welcome improvement that will help to ensure parity is measured by the actual outcomes delivered to consumers, rather than as a box-checking exercise by group health plans and issuers,” the Ranking Members continued.

In 1996, the Mental Health Parity Act provided that annual or lifetime dollar limits for mental health could not be more restrictive than those imposed on medical and surgical care. In 2008, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) extended parity to nonquantitative treatment limits and applied these protections to substance use disorder treatment. In 2010, the Affordable Care Act expanded parity to the individual market and required new individual and small group plans to cover essential health benefits, including behavioral health care.

Unfortunately, federal and state agencies continue to face barriers to achieving mental and behavioral health parity.  The Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Treasury released reports in 2023 and 2022 that found widespread violations of MHPAEA by health plans and insurance companies.  These include violations of the bipartisan provisions in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 that require plans and issuers to perform and document analyses of nonquantitative treatment limitations imposed on behavioral health care.

Read the full text of the letter here.


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