Patrick Kennedy decries insurance discrimination against mental-health and addiction treatment
Providence Journal - 3/14/2019
March 14-- Mar. 14--Patrick Kennedy has joined three other leading mental-health advocates in urging state officials, members of Congress and other government officials to protect individuals from "deceptive and discriminatory practices by health insurance plans" that deny legally mandated coverage of mental-health and addiction services and treatments.
In letters sent to state attorneys general, insurance commissioners and U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the four advocates cite a recent federal class-action lawsuit in which the court ruled that United Behavioral Health "used flawed medical necessity criteria to wrongly deny insurance claims for tens of thousands of patients" in need of such services.
United Behavioral Health, U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero ruled last month, violated its obligations under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.
"In short," wrote Kennedy and the three other advocates, "the nation's largest managed behavioral-health care company was found liable for protecting its bottom line at the expense of its vulnerable members."
Besides Kennedy, the letters were signed by former U.S. Rep. James Ramstad; Mary Giliberti, CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness; and Paul Gionfriddo, president and CEO of Mental Health America.
While a U.S. representative, Kennedy was one of the co-sponsors of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, commonly called the Federal Parity Law, which requires health-insurance firms to provide coverage for mental-health and addiction treatment, and not only "physical" health care. Since leaving Congress, Kennedy has headed The Kennedy Forum, based in New Jersey, where he now lives. He speaks, testifies and writes regularly on mental-health and addiction issues.
"Sadly, UBH is not alone in its actions," Kennedy, Giliberti, Gionfriddo and Ramstad wrote to Pelosi and McConnell. "Other health plans such as Aetna, Kaiser, and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield have also been subject to recent court decisions and regulatory fines."
They concluded: "As rates of overdoses and suicides continue to decrease U.S. life expectancy, our nation must ensure that people have access to treatment for mental health and substance use disorders. Illegal insurance denials should not stand in their way."
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