WASHINGTON – With the United States grappling with a deadly drug epidemic and a mental health crisis, President Joe Biden’s administration is taking steps to compel private insurance companies to provide equal coverage for mental health services as they do for physical health. A proposed rule, published this month by the Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury departments, seeks to strengthen compliance with the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. The act, which was passed in 2008, aims to make sure people seeking mental health and substance use disorder care do not face greater barriers to treatment than those faced by people seeking treatment for medical and surgical conditions. However, enforcement of the law has been lacking.
“Mental health care is as important to the well-being of America’s workers as medical care, and we must eliminate barriers to getting people the lifesaving care that they often need,” said Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su.
The proposed policy seeks to achieve compliance with the law by establishing more robust reporting standards and encouraging mental health professionals to offer in-network care, while also streamlining the process for qualifying for mental health coverage. Though the timeline for implementation remains uncertain, officials suggest it will happen “sometime in the near future.”
Before its implementation, the policy will undergo a 60-day public comment period, during which mental health advocates will closely monitor its effectiveness.
“Anyone who has ever lived with a mental health condition or substance use disorder — or who has a friend or family member who has — knows how hard getting through the day can be at times and should not have to be worried about facing obstacles to getting treatment,” said Assistant Secretary for Employee Benefits Security, Lisa M. Gomez. “Yet, throughout the U.S., people in need of help continue to encounter illegal restrictions on their mental health and substance use disorder benefits and struggle to find mental health and substance use treatment providers that participate in their plan’s networks. Today’s proposed rulemaking is an important step for the departments and stakeholders to work together to make parity a reality.”