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Crapo, Wyden, Bennet, Burr Release Mental Health Parity Discussion Draft

Fifth and Final Discussion Draft Bolsters Laws and Regulations Aimed at Putting Access to Mental Health Care on Par with Physical Health Care in Medicare and Medicaid

Washington, D.C.--U.S. Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), and Senate Finance Committee Members Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) and Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), today released a discussion draft including policies aimed at improving mental health parity in Medicare and Medicaid and helping to put access to mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) services on par with physical health care. Mental health parity includes a set of laws aimed at ensuring mental and physical health care are covered equally by health insurance.

“These proposals will help us gather additional data and increase transparency to ensure Medicare beneficiaries have access to affordable mental health services, on par with their access to physical health services,” said Crapo. “I thank Senators Bennet and Burr for their work on this discussion draft, and look forward to receiving feedback on each mental health discussion draft from our colleagues and stakeholders.”

“Too often the notion of mental health parity falls short of reality,” said Wyden. “These policies represent the first step towards addressing the mental health parity and ghost network challenges that I intend to build on in the coming months -- especially the challenges I hear about consistently from families at home who aren’t able to find available mental health professionals covered in their insurance networks. I’m proud that the committee has been able to come together throughout the year to release a whole host of policies aimed at improving mental health care for Americans, some of which have already become law. I will keep working to enact these policies and ensure all Americans can get mental health care when they need it.” 

“As I travel across Colorado, I consistently hear about the mental and behavioral health challenges Coloradans and their children experience and the difficulties they face finding affordable, high-quality care. We need to change our approach to ensure our health care system equitably addresses both mental and physical health,” said Bennet. “These policies are a step forward to help achieve parity, and I’ll continue working to reimagine our mental and behavioral health system to better care for Coloradans and families across the country.”

“Mental health services are a critical health care need as our nation recovers from the pandemic,” said Burr. “This discussion draft lays a foundation for advancing sensible policies that bring to the forefront the importance of ensuring patients have the information necessary to make the best health care decisions for themselves and their families, and I look forward to receiving comment.”

Policies in the discussion draft include:

  • Strengthening the accuracy of provider directories in Medicare Advantage plans.
  • Strengthening requirements in Medicaid for managed care organizations and states to maintain regularly updated provider directories that include, in part, information on accessing care from behavioral health professionals.
  • Direct GAO to conduct a study of the differences in enrollee cost-sharing and utilization management between behavioral and non-behavioral health services in Medicare Advantage and compared to traditional Medicare.
  • Require Medicare to provide guidance to health care providers detailing the extent to which Medicare beneficiaries with substance use disorders can receive partial hospitalization program services.
  • Direct GAO to report on Medicaid payment rates for behavioral health services compared to medical and surgical services across a sample of states.

This discussion draft on mental health parity is the fifth and final legislative draft the Finance Committee has released since kicking off its bipartisan mental health initiative. The first, released in May, focused on telehealth policies. The second, released in June, focused on youth mental health. The third, released in September, focused on expanding the mental health care workforce. The fourth, released in November, focused on integrating physical health and mental health care providers.

The full text of the discussion draft is available here. A summary of all provisions released by the committee as a part of the bipartisan mental health effort, including mental health parity, is available here.