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NAMI has long fought for a reality where mental health care is treated equitably with physical health care, which has been a historic struggle. Fortunately, the Biden Administration proposed rules to strengthen enforcement of mental health parity law that would improve access to care. Public comments on these proposals were accepted through October 17, and NAMI grassroots advocates from across the country shared their stories with regulators in order to improve access to mental health care in the U.S. Of the approximately 9,400 public comments submitted to the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Treasury, over 5,000 — nearly 60 percent of the total — were submitted by NAMI advocates in support of the proposal.
“Parity has been a priority throughout NAMI’s history. Yet despite important advances, the promise of true parity has not been achieved — and far too many people with mental illness are still being denied the care that they need and deserve,” said NAMI Chief Advocacy Officer Hannah Wesolowski. “When given the opportunity to share these experiences directly with policymakers, NAMI advocates jumped into action and showed exactly why we need stronger enforcement of mental health parity law – and we need it now. People with lived experience brought their own seat to the table, and we strongly urge the Administration to implement these rules immediately to help people who need better access to care.”
In addition to mobilizing NAMI advocates, NAMI coordinated with 19 partner organizations to host a centralized comment portal for partners’ advocates to advocate in support of the proposed regulations. NAMI also joined with national partners to submit in-depth comments urging the Administration to strengthen parity enforcement.
The opportunity to submit personal comments relates to proposed updates from President Biden and his Administration to strengthen enforcement of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA), a landmark law that requires most health insurance plans to cover mental health and substance use disorder treatment at parity with medical/surgical treatment. Passed 15 years ago, MHPAEA marked major progress in the fight to end discrimination by health plans against people with mental health conditions.
However, limited enforcement of the law has meant that many people still face problems accessing care. As one NAMI advocate shared in their public comments:
I am grateful my family was able to afford out of pocket expenses for years of mental health appointments and medications for our son. My husband’s insurance was great in every other category but mental health services. It is wrong that anyone should have to pay out of pocket expenses when a visit to a physician only cost $35. No one should have to jump through additional hoops just because they need to access MH/SUD treatment.
NAMI strongly supports this proposed rule to increase access to mental health and substance use care — as federal parity law intended and required. We hope the Administration will finalize the final rule with its many strong provisions and without exceptions. People impacted by mental illness deserve equitable treatment and improved access to care.