Affordable Mental Health Care? It’s Getting Even Tougher to Access

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Eleven years after Congress passed a law mandating that insurers provide equal access for mental and physical health care, Americans are actually finding it harder to obtain affordable treatment for mental illness and substance abuse issues. The barriers to parity continue despite a bipartisan consensus that more must be done to confront the nation’s devastating opioid epidemic, rising suicide rates and surging rates of teen depression and anxiety.

A report published Wednesday by Milliman, a risk management and health care consulting company, found that patients were dramatically more likely to resort to out-of-network providers for mental health and substance abuse treatment than for other conditions. The disparities have grown since Milliman published a similarly grim study two years ago.

The latest study examined the claims data of 37 million individuals with commercial PPO health insurance plans in all 50 states from 2013 to 2017.

submitted a letter to Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.) of the House Education and Labor Committee calling for congressional hearings on parity.

Meiram Bendat, a mental health lawyer who has brought several parity lawsuits, said much stronger enforcement by states and the federal government is needed to ensure that patients get the access they are guaranteed under the law.

“Without substantial fines against insurers, nothing is going to change because there’s no incentive to change,” he said.

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[email protected], @JennyAGold

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