Health insurers could face more pressure from federal mental health benefits parity enforcement teams.
Witnesses testified today at a hearing organized by the House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee that a lack of information about compliance with the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) has weakened efforts to make parity a reality.
MHPAEA, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush, requires large employer plans that offer both behavioral health and general health benefits to provide comparable levels of behavioral and general health benefits.
Federal regulators have developed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) essential health benefits package regulations that extend the MHPAEA parity standards to the individual and small-group markets.
In 2013, the Obama administration released MHPAEA final regulations that could be used as a foundation for enforcement efforts.
Patrick Kennedy — a former Rhode Island representative, the son of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, and an MHPAEA advocate — testified today at the hearing that shortcomings in the final rule have hurt enforcement efforts.
“Many insurance plans are failing to disclose necessary, meaningful information about their medical management practices, effectively preventing patients and providers from demonstrating a parity violation when it occurs,” Kennedy said, according to a written version of his testimony posted on the committee website.
Kennedy and some other witnesses urged lawmakers at the hearing to support H.R. 2646.
Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, chairman of the psychiatry department at Columbia University medical school, told lawmakers that H.R. 2646 would improve MHPAEA enforcement by requiring a new assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to coordinate health insurance benefits parity efforts.
The provision would also require federal departments to send Congress annual reports on the departments’ MHPAEA compliance investigations, and it would require the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate health insurance plan parity law compliance, Lieberman said.