What are the challenges and work to be done in successfully implementing Federal Mental Health Parity legislation?

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) requires that mental health benefits be offered on a par with general health benefits. This law marked an important milestone in the decades-long effort to ensure better coverage and access to mental health care in the United States.

However, there have been several challenges in implementing the MHPAEA. One example has been in measuring and ensuring equity of “non-quantitative” limits, such as differential use of utilization review between mental health and medical benefits. A second concern has been about network adequacy –making sure that there are a sufficient number of providers that accept insurance to ensure timely access to care.

A new federal report in January 2022 issued by the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and the Treasury found that many health plans and health insurance issuers are still falling short in delivering parity for mental health and substance-use disorder benefits. It highlights current and future plans to enhance the departments’ enforcement activities. This new report underlines the work that still needs to be done to translate this legislation into better access to mental health care in the United States.

The full 2022 MHPAEA Report to Congress is available here.

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