NAMI Releases New Mental Health Parity Report

Nov. 15, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is releasing a new report,  Out-of-Network, Out-of-Pocket, Out-of-Options: The Unfulfilled Promise of Mental Health Parity. The report describes the barriers that people with mental health conditions encounter in finding mental health providers who are in their health insurance plan’s network.

In 2008, mental health advocates celebrated as Congress enacted the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA), which was designed to end insurance discrimination against people with mental health and substance use conditions. Yet more than eight years after the passage of the law, states and the federal government are struggling with enforcement. Much work remains to ensure that the promise of mental health parity becomes reality.

Today’s report is based on NAMI’s Coverage for Care survey, conducted for the second time in 2015 with over 3,000 respondents nationwide. One of the most striking findings was that people with mental health conditions reported difficulties finding in-network providers and relied on out-of-network care at higher rates than people with other health conditions. Reliance on out-of-network providers often results in higher out-of-pocket costs compared to in-network care. For some people, the inability to find a provider caused them to stop mental health treatment entirely. To address these issues, NAMI recommends that health plans:

  • Maintain accurate, up-to-date provider directories
  • Provide easy-to-understand information about mental health benefits
  • Promote integration of mental health and primary care
  • Expand mental health provider networks
  • Cover out-of-network care to fill provider gaps

In March of 2016, President Obama convened a White House Task Force on Mental Health and Substance Use Parity. The Task Force held listening sessions with leading advocacy organizations, including NAMI. Last month, the Task Force issued a final report that urged immediate steps to improve parity enforcement. Congress has also recognized the need for action. Mental health reform bills in the House and Senate both contain language that would improve enforcement of the federal parity law.

People with mental health conditions need access to quality, affordable mental health care. NAMI is committed to working with health plans, Congress, the Obama Administration and the incoming Trump Administration to ensure that the promise of mental health parity comes to fruition.

Read and download the full report.