Senators urge enforcement to protect mental health coverage

A bipartisan group of 22 senators is calling on the Obama administration to step up its enforcement of a law governing how insurers cover mental health. 

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The letter, led by Sens. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyOvernight Cybersecurity: Senators want info on 'stingray' surveillance in DC | Bills to secure energy infrastructure advance | GOP lawmaker offers cyber deterrence bill Overnight Health Care: GOP pushes stiff work requirements for food stamps | Johnny Isakson opens up about family's tragic loss to opioids | Republicans refuse to back vulnerable Dem's opioids bill | Dems offer new public option plan Dems give muted praise to Pompeo-Kim meeting MORE (D-Conn.) and Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteAudit finds US Defense Department wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars US sends A-10 squadron to Afghanistan for first time in three years No, the US did not spend million on a gas station in Afghanistan MORE (R-N.H.), raises concerns about the enforcement of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. That 2008 law prevents health insurers from limiting mental health coverage more than they limit physical health coverage, a requirement known as parity. ObamaCare later extended the requirement to individual health insurance plans as well. 

But in the letter to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor, the senators argue that the law is not being carried out properly, calling for “immediate and overdue action to implement and enforce” it. 

“Parity is still not a reality for individuals living with mental illness and addiction today,” the senators write. “Our constituents from across the country continue to report denials of care and great difficulties in accessing substance use and mental health disorder treatment and services.”

The senators say they hear reports of difficulty obtaining information from insurers about how mental health is covered. The lawmakers ask about the administration’s audits and guidance to insurers to ensure compliance with the law. 

Mental health is an issue that has been seeing bipartisan action on a range of fronts. Murphy has a mental health reform bill with Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), and Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) is pushing a similar effort in the House. Rep. Murphy is also leading a House version of the letter calling for more enforcement.  

Murphy’s bill would require the administration to conduct audits and issue guidance on mental health parity.

This post was updated at 2:06 p.m.