Kuster, Norcross, Courtney Introduce Bill to Enforce Mental Health Parity, Hold Insurance Companies Accountable
The Parity Enforcement Act Is Endorsed by the Kennedy Forum, the American Psychological Association and the American Society of Addiction Medicine
(Washington, DC) – Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02), Chair of the Bipartisan Opioid Task Force; Congressman Donald Norcross (NJ-01), Vice-Chair of the Bipartisan Opioid Task Force; and Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) introduced the Parity Enforcement Act, H.R. 2848, which expands the U.S. Department of Labor’s authority to hold health insurers and plan sponsors accountable for offering health plans that violate the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008.
“We cannot allow insurance companies to continue to get away with violating parity laws,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “During a time in which the opioid epidemic is rattling communities nationwide, we cannot afford to stand by as Americans with substance misuse disorders are taken advantage of. With lives at risk, there is so much more we can do.”
“Every single year we’re losing more Americans to the opioid epidemic than we did in all of the Vietnam War and, unfortunately, suicide is also on the rise in nearly every state in our nation,” said Congressman Norcross. “While mental health parity is rightfully the law of the land, our enforcement mechanisms are severely lacking. Insurance companies can get away with not following parity laws, even though lives are on the line. We can and must do more.”
“Ensuring all Americans have access to effective mental health and addiction treatment is one of the best ways we can stem the increase in addiction and overdose,” said Congressman Courtney. “Insurance companies are required to provide parity between mental health and other benefits, but too frequently they deny coverage or make accessing this treatment difficult. That’s against the law, and we should empower DOL to deter this illegal behavior. This legislation will provide new authority to ensure employer sponsored insurance plans are following parity rules.”
This legislative change has a broad range of bipartisan and nonpartisan support. It was included as a recommendation by President Donald Trump’s Commission on Combatting Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, and the report from President Barack Obama’s Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity Task Force. In May 2019, Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta testified before Congress expressing his support for this authority.
The Parity Enforcement Act is also supported by a variety of advocacy leaders, including the Kennedy Forum, the American Psychological Association and the American Society of Addiction Medicine.
“Insurer discrimination against those with mental health and substance use disorders will continue until the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has the power to enforce the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. Without the ability to levy fines against insurers who violate the law, the DOL is essentially operating with one arm tied behind its back. I applaud Congressman Norcross for introducing this critical legislation, which makes it clear that to achieve parity we must hold insurers accountable,” said Former U.S. Representative and founder of The Kennedy Forum and DontDenyMe.org, Patrick J. Kennedy
“One in five Americans experiences a mental health disorder each year, yet an overwhelming majority of Americans remain unaware that health insurers are required to provide coverage for mental health, behavioral health and substance-use disorders that is comparable to coverage for physical health,” the American Psychological Association CEO Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD. said. “It is critically important that insurers and plans fully comply with the federal mental health and addiction parity law so that more people who need treatment can access it.”
“Correcting discriminatory insurer practices is critical to removing the stigma surrounding addiction and increasing access to evidence-based treatment for substance use disorder. The American Society of Addiction Medicine fully supports the Parity Enforcement Act of 2019, which would provide much-needed enforcement of existing federal parity law and help more Americans access comprehensive addiction treatment services,” said Paul H. Earley, MD, DFASAM, president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM).
Click here to view or download the full text of the Parity Enforcement Act.
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