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Today, the U.S. Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Treasury proposed updates to strengthen enforcement of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA), a landmark law that requires most health insurance plans to cover mental health and substance use disorder treatment at parity with medical/surgical treatment. The law, passed 15 years ago, marked major progress in the fight to end discrimination by health plans against people with mental health conditions, but limited enforcement of the law has meant that many people still face problems accessing care.
“Every day, NAMI hears from people who struggle to find – and afford – the mental health care they need and deserve,” said Daniel H. Gillison Jr., CEO of NAMI. “There is no health without mental health, and we applaud the Biden Administration for focusing on the barriers that far too many of us still face in getting help. Today’s announcement will move us closer to the goal of ensuring that everyone has the same access to mental health benefits as they do for physical health care.”
Enacted in 2008, MHPAEA has helped create a more level playing field to treat mental and physical health conditions alike; however, disparities remain. Too often, health insurance covers mental health care differently than other kinds of medical services, creating barriers to affordable, accessible mental health care and reinforcing a stigma around mental illness and seeking mental health treatment. Data released by The Bowman Family Foundation just last week reinforces what we experience: more than half of people face challenges in accessing needed mental health care – far more than challenges in accessing physical health care. This isn’t acceptable.
At a White House event today, NAMI advocate, Richele Keas shared her family’s journey to get specialized mental health care covered by insurance and introduced President Biden. She explained how her insurance denied multiple requests to get needed mental health care. Ultimately, the family paid out of pocket to get care. “Our story could have turned out tragically – and for many families, it does. Insurers must cover mental health care at parity to help families like mine.”
NAMI is grateful for the Biden Administration’s continued focus on improving the lives of people with mental health conditions and helping millions of families. Today’s proposal will help address the nation’s mental health crisis by ensuring that mental health is treated no differently than physical health. We look forward to working with the Administration on continued efforts to strengthen parity and get everyone the help they need and deserve.
You can read more about today’s announcement here and read a statement from the CEO Alliance for Mental Health here.
Sign up to be a NAMI advocate by going here. In the coming weeks, we will tell you how you can encourage the Administration to finalize and strengthen today’s proposal.