WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) joined 12 of their Senate colleagues in reintroducing the Behavioral Health Coverage Transparency Act, legislation that would strengthen oversight and enforcement of federal parity laws.

“Insurance companies often set up bureaucratic hurdles that make it near impossible for patients to access mental health care. That’s against the law and why I’ve long been pushing for stronger enforcement of our federal parity laws. This legislation would take important steps to make sure insurers using red tape to deny coverage are held accountable and that patients are well-informed on their right to mental health care. I’m continuing to push for further improvements to make parity a reality,” said Murphy.

“While mental health parity has been the law for many years,  Connecticut families have been continually denied benefits for critical health diagnostic and treatment services.  This vital legislation will help break down one of the biggest barriers to accessing mental and behavioral health care -- insurer refusal to cover the cost of such care -- through much needed transparency and accountability,” Blumenthal said. 

This Congress, the legislation has been updated to account for improvements passed in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (CAA), which were spearheaded by Murphy. The CAA granted the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor (DOL), and Treasury increased oversight authority to help provide new insights into insurance companies’ compliance with federal parity laws. 

In February of this year, the Departments issued their first report following the implementation of these new provisions and documented significant gaps in compliance, confirming that more needs to be done to strengthen enforcement and protect consumers.

The updated legislation, which builds on the provisions passed in the CAA, would: 

  • Increase transparency by requiring insurance plans and third-party administrators to submit annual reports with information on any non-quantitative treatment limitations and to disclose additional data on denial rates, reimbursement rates, and network adequacy;
  • Encourage compliance by ensuring that HHS, DOL, and Treasury conduct a review of no fewer than 100 plans per year, including 40 randomized audits;
  • Establish a toll-free telephone number and an online Consumer Parity Portal to offer patients and providers a centralized website hosting information on patients’ rights, findings from oversight efforts, and resources to ensure that health care consumers receive the protections they are guaranteed by law; and
  • Support consumers by encouraging collaboration across federal agencies and with states, including by awarding grants to establish, expand, or provide support for offices of health insurance consumer assistance and health insurance ombudsman programs. 

This legislation is also co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Warren (D-Mass.), Baldwin (D-Wis.), Booker (D-N.J.), Brown (D-Ohio), Kaine (D-Va.), Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Luján (D-N.M.), Markey (D-Mass.), Sanders (I-Vt.), Smith (D-Minn.), Stabenow (D-Mich.),  and Van Hollen (D-Md.). Last year, Murphy introduced the Parity Implementation Assistance Act with U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D., (R-La.) that would that would incentivize further compliance with federal mental health parity laws. The bipartisan legislation builds upon the Murphy-Cassidy Mental Health Parity Compliance Act of 2019, which became law in 2020 and provided federal and state health insurance regulators with additional tools to monitor and assure compliance with mental health parity laws.

It has received support from over 50 advocacy and expert organizations, including:

The American Psychiatric Association, Community Catalyst, National Alliance on Mental Illness, The Kennedy Forum, Legal Action Center, 2020 Mom, American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry, American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, American Association for Psychoanalysis in Clinical Social Work, American Association on Health and Disability, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Group Psychotherapy Association, American Occupational Therapy Association, American Psychoanalytic Association, American Psychological Association, American Society of Addiction Medicine, Anxiety & Depression Association of America, Association for Ambulatory Behavioral Healthcare, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Campaign for Trauma Informed Policy and Practice, Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), Clinical Social Work Association, College of Psychiatrists and Neurologic Pharmacists, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, Eating Disorder Coalition, Global Alliance for Behavioral Health and Social Justice, Jewish Federations of North America, Inseparable, International OCD Foundation, International Society for Psychiatric Mental Health Nurses, Lakeshore Foundation, Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance, Mental Health America, NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals, National Alliance to Advance Adolescent Health, National Association for Behavioral Healthcare, National Association for Children's Behavioral Health, National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, National Association of Social Workers, National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, National Eating Disorders Association, National Federation of Families, National Health Care for the Homeless Council, National League for Nursing, NHMH - No Health without Mental Health, Partnership to End Addiction, REDC Consortium, RI International, School Social Work, Association of America, and SMART Recovery.

“The Behavioral Health Coverage Transparency Act builds on the 2020 amendments to the parity law and requires greater accountability from health plans and insurers. January's report to Congress from the federal agencies responsible for parity enforcement revealed that significant work remains to achieve full compliance with the law. We applaud Senator Warren and Representatives Porter and Cárdenas for their continued focus on mental health parity implementation." — American Psychiatric Association CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin M.D., M.P.A.

“The Behavioral Health Coverage Transparency Act addresses two essential strategies to achieve the Parity Act’s promise: helping consumers understand and enforce their right to equitable substance use disorder and mental health insurance coverage and improving federal oversight of health plan parity compliance. Providing new federal funds for states to establish independent offices of consumer assistance will ensure individuals and families who encounter insurance barriers have the hands-on support they need to overcome them. Coupled with stronger federal enforcement of carrier compliance requirements and greater transparency, this bill will help address rising mental health needs and the escalating overdose crisis in communities across our nation." — Ellen Weber, Sr. Vice President for Health Initiatives, Legal Action Center

“Discriminatory practices by health insurers are preventing people from getting the life-saving care they need for substances use disorders and mental illness. By holding health plans accountable for providing equitable coverage, the Behavioral Health Coverage Transparency Act will increase access and promote health equity so everyone has the care they need, when they need it!” — Emily Stewart, Executive Director, Community Catalyst

“Despite passing the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act 14 years ago, we still too often see health insurers fail to provide coverage for mental health and substance use services at parity with physical health care,” said Hannah Wesolowski, Chief Advocacy Officer for NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “The strong oversight provisions in the Behavioral Health Coverage Transparency Act will help us make progress toward receiving equity for mental health care. We thank Senator Warren and Representatives Porter and Cárdenas for continuing the fight for parity so that people can receive mental health care when they need it.”

“The Parity Law has gone unenforced for years as Americans die from substance use disorder and mental health issues. We are pleased to support the Behavioral Health Coverage Transparency Act which will move toward enforcement of this critical law." — Mark Dunn, Director of Public Policy, National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers