“The parity law protects patients for the express purpose of providing equal access to nondiscriminatory mental health and addiction treatment as intended by Congress,” said APA President Jeffrey Lieberman, M.D. “Without a final rule, the parity law is essentially ineffective and unenforceable to the detriment of those in need.”
Although an interim final rule was issued in 2010, weak and inconsistent application, insurance company manipulation of the regulations, and outstanding issues the rule did not address have negated the substantial strides made in providing treatment equity for those suffering from mental illness or addiction.
The need to protect and fight for the rights of mental health patients has never been greater. Just this week, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed a class-action brought by the New York State Psychiatric Association, filed on behalf of its members and their patients, after four families were denied benefits by United Health Care and United Behavioral Health. The court determined that employers would ultimately be responsible for insurers’ violations of the parity law under employer-sponsored health plans. Judge Colleen McMahon said that organizations like the New York State Psychiatric Association cannot represent their members or patients’ interests in such health care discrimination lawsuits.
In Connecticut, APA is representing its members and their patients’ right to nondiscriminatory mental health and addiction treatment through a lawsuit against Anthem Health Plans Inc. and its parent company, Wellpoint Inc. The suit asks the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut to enforce federal and state laws designed to protect patients against direct and indirect discrimination by limiting access to quality care.
Today’s hearing by the Senate Subcommittee on Oversight, Federal Rights, and Agency Action coincides with APA’s Advocacy Day, an annual event facilitating meetings between numerous psychiatrists and members of Congress and their staff.
“APA continues to fight for true equality for people with mental illness,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.PA. “We are grateful to Chairman Blumenthal for his attention to this critically urgent issue and the focus it brings to the needs of patients and their families.”
Learn more about parity at http://psychiatry.org/parity and join the conversation by following @APAPsychiatric and #mhparity.