WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D., (R-La.), both members of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee, on Tuesday introduced legislation that would incentivize further compliance with federal mental health parity laws. The Parity Implementation Assistance Act would authorize $25 million in grants to states to support their oversight over health insurance plans’ compliance with mental health parity requirements, as long as states collect and review comparative analyses from insurers. The Parity Implementation Assistance Act 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. U.S. Representatives Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.-29) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.-1) are introducing the House companion legislation.
“Way too often, insurance companies still use red tape and bureaucratic hurdles to deny care to people with mental illness. That's against the law, and gradually, Senator Cassidy and I have been improving enforcement of the federal mental health parity law. This bill is the next step. The Parity Implementation Assistance Act would provide states with badly needed funding to support mental health parity implementation and enforcement,” said Murphy.
“As a doctor, it’s clear mental health and physical health are linked. In 2016 and 2020 we passed legislation taking steps to ensure Americans with mental illness have the same access to treatment for both. This bill strengthens accountability and enforcement to build on those efforts,” said Dr. Cassidy.
“These are hard times for everyone, and the impact of the pandemic is taking a toll on the mental health of many people in our communities,” said Cárdenas. “Despite this, those who attempt to receive care are far too often met with barriers in coverage. Our legislation will give states the resources needed to successfully implement parity compliance measures and help people access mental health care and treatment on the same basis as any other illness.”
“As a Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Mental Health and Addiction Task Force, I am proud to support the bipartisan Parity Implementation Assistance Act,” said Fitzpatrick. “Now, more than ever, it is imperative we provide crucial support for the millions of those struggling with mental health or a substance use disorder in our country. And a crucial part of this mission is ensuring that our mental health and substance use disorder parity laws are being enforced.”
“As states work to implement the new parity law passed by Congress at the end of last year, it is vital that the Federal government provide state insurance commissioners with resources to ensure compliance,” said American Psychiatric Association President Vivian Pender, M.D. “COVID-19 may appear to be subsiding, but discrimination against those seeking behavioral health treatment is a longstanding problem, and we are still dealing with a mental health crisis, the opioid epidemic, and the disparities produced by social determinants of mental health. This legislation is a necessary step to enhance the ability of states to effectively implement the parity law so that patients can access the life-saving care that they need.”
“We applaud Senators Murphy and Cassidy and Representatives Cárdenas and Fitzpatrick for their continued leadership and steadfast commitment to improving compliance with MHPAEA! The Parity Implementation Assistance Act would provide critically needed resources to state regulators so they can improve parity enforcement using the new documentation requirements,” said Shawn Coughlin, President and CEO, National Association for Behavioral Healthcare.
"The Parity Implementation Assistance Act is an important step toward ensuring Americans receive coverage for mental health and addiction treatment at a time of unprecedented need," said former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, founder of The Kennedy Forum. "I applaud Senators Murphy and Cassidy and Congressmen Cardenas and Fitzpatrick for their leadership in helping to make the promise of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act a reality."
In 2016, Murphy and Cassidy co-authored the bipartisan Mental Health Reform Act, which was signed into law by President Obama.