“Parity is only meaningful if health plans are implementing it well, consumers and providers understand how it works, and the government provides clear guidance and appropriate oversight,” stated Task Force Chair Cecilia Munoz in a summary accompanying the report. She is assistant to President Obama and director of the Domestic Policy Council.
The task force developed its recommendations through a series of “listening sessions” with stakeholders held between March and October. APA provided input through written comments, and members were invited to do so at a session held in May at APA’s 2016 Annual Meeting in Atlanta.
Recommendations for short-term action include providing $9.3 million to states to help implement parity protections; development of a beta version of a new parity website to help consumers find the appropriate federal or state agency to assist with their parity complaints, appeals, and other actions; a “Consumer Guide to Disclosure Rights” to help consumers and providers understand what type of information to ask for when inquiring about a plan’s compliance with parity; and providing guidance on the application of parity to opioid use disorder treatment.
Longer-term recommendations include increasing federal agencies’ capacity to audit health plans for parity compliance and allowing the Department of Labor to assess civil monetary penalties for parity violations, among others.
“APA welcomes this much-needed report to strengthen implementation and enforcement of existing mental health parity laws,” said APA President Maria A. Oquendo, M.D., Ph.D. “Full implementation and stronger enforcement will help ensure that psychiatric conditions are treated the same as other illnesses and individuals can access the treatment they need.”
She added, “APA stands ready to work with Congress and the White House in monitoring implementation. We will also work with our members to insure parity.”