House Passes Deutch Amendment to Promote Awareness of Mental Health and Addiction Parity Laws
May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
Moments ago, as the U.S. House of Representatives considers H.R. 987, the "Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act," the House approved Congressman Ted Deutch's (FL-22) amendment that directs Affordable Care Act navigators to raise awareness of the ACA's mental health and substance use disorder parity laws.
Congressman Deutch's floor remarks can be viewed here.
According to a 2014 poll commissioned by the American Psychological Association, that year only 7 percent of American adults were familiar with the term "mental health parity," a meager figure that remained unchanged since 2010.
"Congress has made significant strides to ensure more Americans can access mental health and addiction care. But we have further to go to make Americans aware about our parity laws and the protections available to them," said Congressman Deutch. "We want to reduce the stigma associated with mental health and substance use disorders and help more people understand their rights under the law. This amendment directs outreach efforts to educate people on their legal right to nondiscriminatory coverage for mental health care and substance use disorder treatment."
Despite the law, there are still widespread cases of insurance companies denying families coverage for mental health care and addiction treatment. One woman from Boca Raton enrolled in an ACA plan to cover her daughter's eating disorder treatment but was either denied or approved only for lower levels of care by her health insurance. For another woman, Leah from Palm Beach Gardens, her health insurance covered her breast cancer treatments but gave her few affordable options for treating her eating disorder.
Congressman Deutch supports the underlying bill, which includes a package of Democratic priorities to improve access and lower costs for health care prescription drugs.
The American Psychological Association issued this statement of support for the legislation:
"The American Psychological Association (APA) commends Congressman Deutch for introducing Amendment #3 to H.R. 987, the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act. APA is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world’s largest association of psychologists.
"In 2014, APA commissioned a survey which found that only 4% of Americans are familiar with the federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2010 (Parity Act). The Parity Act requires coverage of services for mental health, behavioral health, and substance use disorders to be comparable to coverage of physical health services. This means insurers must treat financial requirements (such as copays) and non-financial treatment limits (such as annual visit limits) the same for both mental health and physical health coverage.
"Congressman Deutch’s amendment would require Navigators under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to conduct public education activities in plain language on mental health parity and on the ACA’s essential health benefits. APA strongly supports this effort to raise public awareness of the breadth of benefits available to them, and especially of mental health at parity with physical health benefits. APA supports passage of any legislation that makes mental, behavioral, and substance use disorder care more affordable and accessible for all Americans."