Trump administration leaves insurers, patients in the dark on mental health parity

Democratic and Republican lawmakers are calling out the White House for not issuing mandatory guidance regarding mental health parity in insurance plans. (help.senate.gov)

A bipartisan group of senators says the Trump administration has failed to meet statutory requirements related to mental health and opioid addiction coverage.

In a letter to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, six lawmakers on the Senate Health Committee said the White House has not enforced equal treatment of mental health disorders and substance abuse in insurance plans.

The requirement is part of a provision under the 21st Century Cures Act. Under that law, HHS, the Department of Labor and the Treasury Department were required to release an action plan and clarifying guidance for states and by December 2017. However, the deadline came and went without a word from the Trump administration.

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The Government Accountability Office is also required to conduct a review of mental health parity that will review the agencies' action plan. 

The senators asked for a response by May 1. HHS did not return FierceHealthcare's request for comment. 

At the same time, another bipartisan group of senators wrote to leaders of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education asking for continued funding for mental health and substance use disorders. 

About 44 million Americans live with mental illness, which costs almost $200 billion in lost productivity each year, the senators said. 

RELATED: Medicare reimbursement caught in the crosshairs of congressional opioid talks

Both letters come as Congress looks to pass legislation to prop up funding for the opioid crisis, with numerous bills and hearings coming out of each chamber. 

Andrew Sperling, legislative advocacy director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness told FierceHealthcare that Congress consistently maintained funding for various mental health laws, including the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. Additional funding, beyond the current opioid legislation, could be tackled after the midterm elections. 

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