The Biden administration proposes new rules to push insurers to boost mental health coverage

FILE - President Joe Biden speaks in Philadelphia, July 20, 2023. Biden's administration is announcing new rules meant to push insurance companies to increase their coverage of mental health treatments. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)(AP/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced that his administration is moving forward with new rules meant to push insurance companies to increase their coverage of mental health treatments.

The new regulations, which still need to go through a public comment period, would require insurers to study whether their customers have equal access to medical and mental health benefits and to take remedial action, if necessary. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act requires that insurers provide the same level of coverage for both mental and physical health care — though the administration and advocates argue insurers’ policies restrict patient access.

“I don’t know what the difference between breaking your arm and having a mental breakdown is — it’s health,” Biden said in an East Room event highlighting the announcement. “We must fulfill the promise of true mental health parity for all Americans now.”

The rules, if finalized, would force insurers to study patient outcomes to ensure mental health and physical health benefits are administered equally, taking into account their provider network and reimbursement rates and whether prior authorization is required for care.

The Democratic president’s administration said it’s aiming to address issues such as insurers enabling nutritional counseling for diabetes patients but making it more difficult for those with eating disorders or not having enough mental health providers in their provider networks, forcing subscribers to pay higher, out-of-pocket fees for needed help.

“Folks, it shouldn’t be this way,” Biden said. “It doesn’t need to be this way.”

By measuring outcomes, the White House said, it will force insurers to make modifications to come into compliance with the law.

Biden made tackling the nation’s mental health crisis a part of his “unity agenda” — issues he believed could win bipartisan support in Congress — during his 2022 State of the Union address.

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