Mental Health Parity: NAMI Tells Congress that Enforcement of Federal Law is Needed; NAMI Study Cited

Sep 09 2016

ARLINGTON, Va., Sept. 9, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is calling for legislation to ensure enforcement of the 2008 federal mental health insurance "parity" law and expanded coverage under the 2009 Affordable Care Act.

The call coincided with a hearing held by the U.S. House of Representatives Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Health.

"While significant progress has been made, people living with mental illness continue to encounter significant barriers in getting necessary mental health services covered in health insurance," declared NAMI CEO Mary Giliberti in a letter to Health SubcommitteeChair Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) and Ranking Member Gene Green (D-Tex.) 

NAMI cited its 2015 report, "A Long Road Ahead," based on a survey of approximately 3,000 health care consumers and analysis of 84 insurance plans in 15 states. Nearly one third of survey respondents reported insurance company denials of authorization for mental health and substance abuse care— nearly twice the rate for other medical care.

NAMI is analyzing data from an updated survey conducted this year. The letter cited two comments from it:

  • "Calling the insurance company to find mental health and/or substance abuse providers is a JOKE.  Their website gives no help.  Call representatives should be knowledgeable about their own plans!   So hard to navigate insurance requirements – and I have a Masters' degree!   What is it like for others?"
  • I don't even try to use the mental health benefits anymore provided by my insurance company.  It requires pre-authorization by one of their providers.  My psychiatrist isn't in any network.  I have been going to her for over 20 years.  She is part of the reason I am still on this earth.

NAMI thanked the subcommittee for its work on the "Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act" (HR 2646), which the House passed almost unanimously on July 6, 2016.  Several provisions address parity enforcement.

"These provisions would be a significant step forward in eliminating discrimination towards mental illness and substance use disorders in health insurance," Giliberti wrote.

Enactment of parity enforcement provisions now depends on Senate action and coordination between the Senate and House in adopting final legislation.

About NAMI 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness is the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.

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