June 5, 2019

Cassidy, Murphy Introduce Measure to Strengthen Mental Health Parity Laws

WASHINGTON–U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) and Chris Murphy (D-CT), members of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, today introduced the Mental Health Parity Compliance Act of 2019

The legislation improves transparency and accountability to help consumers have access to mental health and substance use services included in their plans. It would strengthen compliance with mental health parity laws by requiring issuers or plans to submit comparative analyses upon request from federal oversight agencies. U.S. Representative Katie Porter (CA-45) plans to introduce the companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Murphy and Cassidy co-authored the bipartisan Mental Health Reform Act in 2016, which was signed into law by President Obama.

“As a doctor, I know mental health and physical health are linked. Ensuring equal access to both, health outcomes improve. Senator Murphy and I worked to pass the Mental Health Reform Act to ensure Americans with mental illness could get the treatment they need,” said Dr. Cassidy.  “This legislation ensures accountability so patients have the same resources to take care of their mental health as their physical health.”

“People in Connecticut with mental health and substance abuse conditions deserve the same access to care as everyone else. We’ve passed legislation in the past to deal with this, but far too often we’ve seen insurers put up all sorts of bureaucratic hurdles for people accessing mental health care or battling addiction. The Mental Health Parity Compliance Act aims to correct that. Our legislation will require insurance providers to give the same access to care for someone with a mental health diagnosis as they do for someone with a broken leg, and it will crack down on bad actors to make sure they do,” said Senator Murphy. 

“For too long insurers have neglected their responsibility to adequately provide coverage for patients with mental illness or substance use disorders,” said APA President Bruce Schwartz, M.D. “This bill will help to ensure those patients be treated like patients with any other illness and end this harmful discrimination.”

“The 2008 Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act was designed to make insurance coverage for mental health and substance use disorder treatment no more restrictive than insurance coverage for any other medical condition,” said APA CEO Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD. “However, more than a decade after the law was enacted, we are concerned that some health plans and insurers are not complying with crucial but complex requirements around equal access to care. Given such issues as the opioid crisis and rise in suicides, it is more important than ever that people have access to the services they need.”

The Mental Health Parity Compliance Act of 2019 would:

  • Require group health plans or insurers to provide comparative analyses about the design and application of nonquantitative treatment limitations (NQTLs) to medical and surgical benefits and mental health and substance use disorder benefits to the Secretaries of Labor, Treasury, and Health and Human Services, upon request.
  • Require the Secretaries to request comparative analyses if they have received any consumer complaints about a plan and to select no fewer than 50 plans at random to submit analyses per year.
  • Provide states with discretion in requesting the comparative analysis of insurers for individual and group health plans in their respective state.
  • Add examples of noncompliance found in the analyses to be added to the biannual compliance guidance issued under 21st Century Cures. 
  • Add an annual Report to Congress with redacted versions of the comparative analyses, findings on whether plans are in compliance with parity laws, and any actions the plans should take to submit additional information and/or come into compliance.

The legislation is supported by more than 50 organizations, including many listed here.