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March 19, 2013 Matt Selig
Advocates to Urge the State to Prevent Discrimination Against those Fighting Mental Illness and Substance Use by Insurance Companies
Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy to testify in Boston
(Boston, MA) A coalition of consumer and health care provider advocates will urge two state agencies to prevent discrimination by insurance companies against those fighting mental illness and substance use at a public hearing on March 27, 2013 at 1:30 p.m at 1000 Washington Street, Boston.
The advocates have pressed state officials for several years to aggressively enforce the federal and state Mental Health Parity Laws which outlaw health insurer discrimination against those with mental health and substance use treatment needs. The Parity laws were enacted with bipartisan support because of broad acknowledgement that health insurers employed discriminatory practices in denying coverage for mental health and substance use care. However, enforcement of the Parity laws is critical because consumers still have great difficulty securing insurance coverage for mental health and substance use services even though the Parity Laws were enacted several years ago. The federal Parity law was enacted in 2008 and the state Parity law in 2000.
Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy will testify at the March 27th hearing in support of strong state action to enforce the federal Mental Health Parity Law of 2008 which he co-authored. The hearing will be conducted jointly by the state’s Division of Insurance and Office of Medicaid which recently released regulations describing how they will enforce the Parity laws. The agencies were required to write the regulations by provisions in last year’s major state health care cost control reform law.
“Like millions of Americans, I have struggled with addiction. Fortunately, I was able to access the treatment and recovery services necessary to get well,” Kennedy said. “Tragically, many others are not able to access the mental health and addiction services they need because their insurance company has unfairly denied coverage. I co-authored the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act in Congress to end this kind of discrimination by insurers. When we wrote the law in Congress, we envisioned states having a major role in enforcement. I look forward to sharing my thoughts on efforts in Massachusetts to ensure that everyone has access to fair and equal mental health treatment.”
Health Law Advocates (HLA), a non-profit public interest law firm, is coordinating the activities of Massachusetts consumer and provider advocates working to ensure that the promise of the Mental Health Parity Laws is finally realized.
“We represent many clients who urgently need mental health and addiction treatment, but go without care because their health plan has unfairly denied coverage,” said HLA Executive Director Matt Selig. “Consumers need the state to aggressively enforce the Parity laws. A passive approach won’t do because our society should be long past the days of brushing aside discrimination against people with mental illness.”