September 30, 2022

House passes mental health parity bill to boost worker protection, impose fines

Editor's Note

On Thursday, September 29, the House of Representatives voted 220-205 to pass legislation to impose new fines on insures that do not follow federal mental health pay parity requirements, in order to "hold employer-based health plans more accountable for improper denials of mental health and substance use benefits," the American Hospital Association (AHA) September 29 reports.

The vote drew some opposition from the insurance industry, with the legislation receiving "major pushback" from the ERISA Industry Committee, which represents large employer plan sponsors, Fierce Healthcare September 29 reports, calling the bill "controversial." An analysis from the Congressional Budget Office estimated that a small number of insurers would get fined and maybe generate some $29 million over the next decade under the new penalties, the article noted.

The new legislation, called the Mental Health Matters Act, would give the Department of Labor more authority to enforce plan requirements under the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and Employee Retirement Income Security Act; ban forced arbitration agreements when plans deny benefits improperly; and ensure a fair standard of review by the courts, according to AHA. The bill would also strengthen mental health support for youths via grants to develop, recruit, and retain school-based mental health professionals and link schools with local mental health systems.

The bill will head to the Senate, where "strong Republican opposition...could imperil its chances," according to Fierce Healthcare.

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