HCN News & Notes

AMA Applauds White House Mental-health Parity Recommendations

CHICAGO — The American Medical Assoc. (AMA) welcomed the final recommendations from the White House’s Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity Task Force that outline policies to boost compliance with mental-health parity laws. With the recommendations in place, the onus is on state officials and payers to implement the recommendations.

The AMA has long supported parity for mental-health coverage and advocated for provisions in the Affordable Care Act and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act to ensure that health-insurance plans treat mental-health and substance-use disorders the same way they treat other health conditions. President Obama established the task force in March and asked federal agencies to work together to ensure that consumers are benefiting from the mental-health and substance-use-disorder parity protections under the law.

“Consumers have repeatedly faced discrimination in the way insurers reimburse for mental health services. The AMA has pushed — and Congress has agreed — to move toward parity,” said AMA President Dr. Andrew Gurman. “The need for parity has taken on even greater urgency because of the opioid epidemic that has resulted in a huge demand for substance-use-disorder treatment — care that often comes with non-medical usage limits, high co-pays, or other restrictions that are not placed on medical benefits. These new policies — if followed by payers and enforced by state officials — will provide much-needed relief to patients who have suffered for far too long.”

Importantly, the task force calls for federal support for state efforts to enforce parity through trainings, resources, and new implementation tools, including model compliance templates. State regulators need to ensure consumers are receiving the coverage they were promised when purchasing a plan. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is awarding $9.3 million to states to help enforce parity protections. CMS funding will help provide state insurance regulators the resources to oversee issuer compliance with the mental-health and substance-use-disorder parity protections.