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A Push to Improve Access to Mental Health Care

July 26, 2023

The Biden administration this week announced new rules that seek to improve coverage for mental health and remove barriers to care.

On Tuesday, the administration announced new rules to ensure coverage for mental health is on par with coverage for physical health, bolstering the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA).

“Today’s proposed rule reinforces MHPAEA’s fundamental goal of ensuring that families have the same access to mental health and substance use benefits as they do physical health benefits,” the White House said in a statement. “And it would make it easier to get in-network mental health care and eliminate barriers to access that keep people from getting the care they need, when they need it.”

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Benefit study:  The proposed rule would require health plans to study if they are providing the same access to mental health and substance use benefits as they are for physical health benefits.
    • This includes reviewing provider networks, pay to out-of-network providers, and prior authorization denials.
  • Prior authorization:  The proposed rule would emphasize that plans cannot use more restrictive prior authorization or narrow network strategies to make it harder to access care for mental health and substance use disorder.
  • Loopholes:  The proposed rule would close existing loopholes ensuring non-federal government health plans also have to comply with MHPAEA.
  • Request for information:  The administration also will roll out a request for information about how states ensure Medicaid health plans cover mental health services.
  • Quotable:  “With today’s changes, this rule would help increase utilization of mental health and substance use care, ensure comparable payment for mental health care professionals, likely incentivizing more people to join the mental health workforce,” the administration said yesterday.

HAP and Pennsylvania hospitals continue to advocate for solutions to improve access to mental and behavioral health services. Learn more about this important advocacy.

Additional information is available online.