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. 

The letter, led by Sens. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDems mull big changes after Brazile bombshell After Texas shooting, lawmakers question whether military has systemic reporting problem Warren to GOP: Thoughts and prayers not enough after Texas shooting MORE (D-Conn.) and Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteTrump voter fraud panel member fights back against critics Dems plan to make gun control an issue in Nevada Stale, misguided, divisive: minimum wage can't win elections 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.