White House Pushing Insurers to Improve Mental Health Coverage

July 25, 2023

The Biden Administration on Tuesday new rules meant to press insurance companies to increase their coverage of mental health treatment. 

“Ensuring robust access to mental health care has been a bipartisan priority for almost 15 years, since the 2008 enactment of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act,” the White House said in a statement, referring to Bush Administration-era legislation.

The White House called the MHPAEA “a landmark law that called for mental health care benefits covered by health plans to be provided at the same level as physical health care benefits, and which was strengthened on a bipartisan basis in 2020.” 

The statement goes on, “Yet today, too many Americans still struggle to find and afford the care they need. Of the 21% of adults who had any mental illness in 2020, less than half received mental health care; fewer than one in ten with a substance use disorder received treatment.”

The new regulations, proposed under the MHPAEA, will undergo a public comment period before being enacted.

Among its new rules, the legislation will require insurers to provide the same level of coverage for both mental and physical health care. 

It would also require that insurers study patient outcomes to make sure the benefits are being administered equally by taking into account provider networks, reimbursement rates and whether prior authorization is required for care.

“[I]n recent years, the gap between usage of out-of-network care for mental health and substance use disorder benefits versus physical health benefits increased 85 percent,” the White House said. “As a result, millions of people are paying for out of network care for mental health services.”

The Biden Administration says the new rules aim to “help increase utilization of mental health and substance use care, ensure comparable payment for mental health care professionals.”

Further, the Administration plans to work with states to ensure compliance with the MHPAEA’s protections for Medicaid beneficiaries enrolled in private Medicaid plans. 

The new legislation is part of an ongoing focus on mental health by the Biden Administration. In December 2022, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff visited the 988 suicide hotline call center at the Community Crisis Services Center in Hyattsville, Maryland, months after the July 2022 launch of the new hotline number and just days before the holidays.

The 988 hotline’s funding, some $130 million in grants, came from the bipartisan gun control legislation that President Biden signed into law in June 2022. In its first five months, the three-digit 988 number saw a boost of nearly half a million calls over the old ten-digit hotline number.

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