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Feds seek mental health benefits compliance stories

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A new federal compliance panel is asking members of the public to tell it about their experiences with insurance coverage for mental health care and other forms of behavioral health care.

The panel, the Mental Health and Substance User Disorder Parity Task Force, says it wants to hear from “patients, families, consumer advocates, health care providers, insurers and other stakeholders.”

The task force is asking commenters to tell it about the types of information insurers and employer-sponsored health plans give when they deny coverage for behavioral health services

The task force is also asking about some of the practices state insurance departments use to enforce compliance, and methods coverage providers use to ensure that they are meeting parity standards.

“What additional actions could be taken to improve responsiveness to concerns regarding non-compliance with parity requirements, both on the part of insurance issuers and on the part of regulators?” the task force asks.

President Obama created the task force in March, in response to complaints that the level of health coverage provider compliance with federal parity standards has been poor.

The task force, which includes representatives from the White House Domestic Policy Council, the Office of National Drug Control Policy and many federal executive departments, is supposed to submit a list of recommendations for improving compliance by Oct. 31. Election Day is Nov. 8.

Related: Kennedy to help probe insurers’ mental health benefits

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, or the MHPAEA, does not require any plan to cover behavioral health services. For large plans, it does require any mental health or addiction treatment benefits offered to be comparable to the other health benefits offered.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services included behavioral health benefits in the Affordable Care Act “essential health benefits” package. That means that any new individual or small-group major medical plan sold in the United States must cover mental health and addiction treatment services.

Three months ago, the department required Medicaid plans and Children’s Health Insurance Program plans to provide behavioral health benefits parity.  


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