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The Fight for Equal Insurance Coverage for Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Treatment Marches On

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at June 24, 2016

On June 10th, Secretary Burwell and Office of National Drug Control Policy Director, Michael Botticelli (who himself is openly in recovery from alcoholism), hosted a listening session to engage stakeholders in a discussion about mental health and substance use disorder parity implementation. Fifteen leaders of organizations representing consumer and provider groups from the mental health and addiction fields shared their perspective and offered recommendations for how to improve awareness of and compliance with the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act  of 2008 (the “Party Act”). [The Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) is a federal law that generally prevents group health plans and health insurance issuers that provide mental health or substance use disorder (MH/SUD) benefits from imposing less favorable benefit limitations on those benefits than on medical/surgical benefits.\

More than 170 million people have better insurance coverage for mental health and substance use disorder care thanks to new coverage and parity protections in the Affordable Care Act, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and Medicaid/CHIP.

The President established the Task Force on Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity (www.hhs.gov/parity) to build on that progress and to focus federal agencies on realizing these improvements.

Stakeholders spoke of the challenges that consumers and providers face in trying to understand the parity law and whether there has been a violation. Moreover, they conveyed that most consumers and many providers may not know how to get help if they think coverage is not in compliance. They asked the Task Force to focus on enforcement, transparency and simplifying the process and tools for consumers and providers.

As Secretary Burwell noted during the discussion, untreated mental and substance use disorders not only affect the individual, they also impact the individual’s family and almost every segment of our society.  She encouraged people to share their experiences with the Task Force so that Federal resources can be focused on creating the largest impact.

In the weeks ahead, the Task Force will carefully consider comments from the listening sessions and written comments from other interested parties.  We want to hear from you! Your input can help us build on the progress we’ve made for millions of Americans.  Please submit your written comments via the Task Force website at www.hhs.gov/parity or by email at parity@hhs.gov.

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