American Health Policy Institute

Administration’s Mental Health Strategy Focuses on Parity Compliance

Published on: March 4, 2022

Authors: Margaret Faso

Topics: Transparency, Quality and Cost Containment, Wellness

The Biden administration's new mental health strategy, released in conjunction with the State of the Union address, advocates for increased focus on mental health parity enforcement on employer health plans, highlighting the need for employers to complete their parity analyses and begin to address identified issues.

Employer plans could face penalties and be identified in future DOL reports for failing to meet parity. The administration’s proposed budget will include requirements that all health plans cover behavioral health benefits with an adequate network of providers as well as three behavioral health visits without cost sharing. While HR Policy supports achieving mental health parity, the Association opposes the enactment of civil monetary penalties for mental health parity violations and other burdensome requirements on employer health plans. The Association will continue to inform the administration and Congress of the difficulties employers face when trying to get providers to join their networks.

HR Policy Association supports the administration’s efforts to strengthen system capacity by increasing funding to expand the pipeline of behavioral health providers and train diverse providers. With over 129 million Americans living in designated Mental Health Professional Shortage areas, the biggest challenge to increasing access is the current shortage of mental health providers. Exacerbating the shortage is the limited number of behavioral health providers that are in-network, leaving many employees without access to an affordable provider.

The Biden administration plans to double funding for primary and behavioral health integration programs. Integrating primary and behavioral health care through models like the Association-supported Collaborative Care Model improves the effectiveness of care and reduces costs. HR Policy supports the Collaborate in an Orderly and Cohesive Manner Act (H.R. 5218), which would provide funding to primary care offices so they can implement the model and provide the necessary behavioral health training to primary care providers.

Expanding access to telebehavioral health: HR Policy also supports the expansion of telehealth services, particularly for behavioral health, and has supported making the COVID-19 telehealth flexibilities permanent. These include allowing first-dollar coverage of telehealth in high deductible health plans (H.R. 5541).

Outlook: HR Policy will continue to engage with the administration and Congress on improving affordable access to behavioral health care providers for employees. We will be submitting telehealth recommendations to the GOP Healthy Future Task Force soon; our previous comments on the subject to the Senate Finance Committee can be found here.

Margaret Faso

Director of Health Care Research and Policy, American Health Policy Institute and HR Policy Association

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