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 (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. 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. Research shows that people with private health coverage have a hard time finding a mental health provider in their health plan’s network, like these two mothers in California. They struggled to find a therapist to help their children, calling multiple therapists in their plans’ networks, only to find that these providers weren’t accepting new patients or had months long waiting lists.
Despite the repeated bipartisan efforts aimed at mental health parity, insurers too often make it difficult to access mental health treatment, causing millions of consumers to seek care out-of-network at significantly higher costs and pay out of pocket, or defer care altogether. One study shows that insured people are well more than twice as likely to be forced to go out-of-network and pay higher fees for mental health care than for physical health care. And the problem is getting worse: in 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. As a result, millions of people are paying for out of network care for mental health services they need, like this family in Michigan who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to treat their son’s depression and anxiety because the specialized care he needed wasn’t close to home and this mother in Rhode Island who had to submit additional paperwork to get care for her daughter when her private insurance company initially denied her treatment.
President Biden believes mental health is health. As part of his Unity Agenda, he released a comprehensive national strategy to transform how mental health is understood, accessed, treated, and integrated in and out of health care settings. That’s why, today, the President is announcing new actions that would improve and strengthen mental health parity requirements and ensure that more than 150 million Americans with private health insurance can better access mental health benefits under their insurance plan. Today’s proposed rule reinforces MHPAEA’s fundamental goal of ensuring that families have the same access to mental health and substance use benefits as they do physical health benefits. And it would make it easier to get in-network mental health care and eliminate barriers to access that keep people from getting the care they need, when they need it.
Read more at WhiteHouse.gov.