Biden administration pushing insurers to improve access to mental health treatment

President Biden

Biden administration pushing insurers to improve access to mental health treatment

WASHINGTON, July 25 (Reuters) – President Joe Biden is making a fresh push to force health insurance companies to improve access to mental health treatment for Americans who too often struggle to find and afford the care they need, officials said on Tuesday.

The administration on Tuesday will release the text of a proposed rule change to the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. Biden will make remarks about the plan on Tuesday afternoon.

The rule change would require health plans to make changes when they are providing inadequate access to mental health care.

It would also provide specific examples that make clear that health plans cannot use more restrictive prior authorization, other medical management techniques or narrower networks that make it harder for people to access mental health and substance use disorder benefits.

“Despite the repeated bipartisan efforts aimed at mental health parity, insurers too often make it difficult to access mental health treatment, causing millions of consumers to seek care out-of-network at significantly higher costs and pay out of pocket, or defer care altogether,” the White House said in a fact sheet announcing the rule change proposal.

The proposed text will be open to public comment for 60 days and administration officials said they expected it would go into effect sometime afterward.

The White House fact sheet cited one study it said showed that insured people are well more than twice as likely to be forced to go out-of-network and pay higher fees for mental health care than for physical health care.

“We’ve learned that insurers are evading the mandate of the law,” White House domestic adviser Neera Tanden said in a conference call with reporters.

A U.S. study in 2017 said that people with serious psychological distress, which includes any mental illness severe enough to require treatment, are three times more likely to be too poor to afford care and 10 times more likely to be unable to pay for medications.

Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Jamie Freed
Source: Reuters