Website Helps Families Fight Insurance Denials for Mental Health and Addiction Treatment

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month and while fighting mental health stigma is important, an essential part of the conversation is missing: inadequate insurance coverage provides a significant barrier to mental health care and addiction treatment for too many Americans. When insurers reject or limit coverage (often illegally), people frequently give up -- but ParityRegistry.org can offer help and resources.

For Many, the Difference Between Life and Death is Insurance Coverage

With more and more celebrities opening up about mental health and addiction struggles, the national conversation about mental health continues to grow – especially during Mental Health Awareness Month (May). Fighting stigma is important, but an essential part of the conversation is missing: inadequate insurance coverage provides a significant barrier to mental health care and addiction treatment for too many Americans. When insurers reject or limit coverage (often illegally), people frequently give up.

ParityRegistry.org offers help. Consumers can learn to file an appeal with their health plan, send a complaint directly to state enforcement officials, access step-by-step appeals guidance, find a listing of state and federal regulators who can help with an appeal, review FAQs, and more.

The Federal Parity Law of 2008 requires insurers to cover illnesses of the brain, such as depression or addiction, no more restrictively than how they cover illnesses of the body, such as diabetes or cancer. However, many insurers are not in compliance with this law. Common parity violations include:

  • Making people pay a separate deductible or higher co-pays for behavioral health services.
  • Setting limits on how many days people can stay in a treatment facility or how many times they can see a behavioral health provider.
  • Charging more for prescription medication for behavioral health treatment.
  • Making people get permission before starting and/or continuing behavioral health treatment.
  • Making people try a less expensive treatment before pursuing treatment suggested by a doctor.
  • Refusing to pay for behavioral health treatment outside of a patient’s state or region.

“Treatment services shouldn’t be exclusive to the rich,” said Patrick J. Kennedy, who was lead sponsor of the Mental Health Parity and Equity Addiction Act (also known as The Federal Parity Law) and most recently served as a member of the President’s Opioid Commission. “No parent should have to face financial ruin to save their child’s life, especially after paying into an insurance plan diligently for years.”

"Parity Registry guided me in the complicated appeals process,” said Rocky Schwartz, a New Jersey mother who testified before the President’s Opioid Commission. “It provided sample letters and specific steps to follow. It also helped me to understand that my specific plan is enforced by the Department of Labor – I was finally guided to the appropriate government department.”

Visit ParityRegistry.org to take action today. The information shared about insurance denials (which may be shared anonymously) will ultimately help to shape public policy and influence future legislation.

About The Kennedy Forum
Founded in 2013 by former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.), The Kennedy Forum leads a national dialogue on transforming the health care system by uniting mental health advocates, business leaders, and government agencies around a common set of principles, including full implementation of the Federal Parity Law. Launched in celebration of the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s signing of the landmark Community Mental Health Act, the nonprofit aims to achieve health equity by advancing evidence-based practices, policies, and programming for the treatment of mental health and addiction issues. The Kennedy Forum publishes frequent issue briefs and is a repository of other educational resources and tools focused on parity. To learn more, visit http://www.thekennedyforum.org.

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Betsy Woerner
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