McDermed questions mental health parity at hearing on insurance coverage
Rep. Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) wanted to know exactly what mental health parity is and why it is important to Illinois at a House Mental Health Committee hearing.
“Would you enter into the record why is parity important for us here today,” McDermed asked one panel witness, Kennedy Forum Illinois Director of Public Policy David Lloyd, at Monday’s hearing in Chicago on reported barriers to mental health and addiction coverage by Illinois providers.
“Parity is important because it means access to mental health and addiction treatment,” Lloyd explained, adding there is anti-discrimination in mental health parity on both a state and federal level.
“If you are covered by an insurance plan and are unable to access mental health and addiction coverage when you need it then it is very hard to get that treatment or do so without financial ruin,” Lloyd said. "Mental health parity is essential to making sure people have access to treatment and to addressing our addiction crisis across the state and country.”
The committee hearing was based on a survey published in September by the Kennedy Forum, titled “Illinois Health Plans Frequently Deny Coverage of Mental Health Addiction,” that details Medicaid Managed Care organizations (MCOs) and commercial insurance plans compliance with state and federal laws, which included responses by hospitals, psychiatrists, community mental health agencies and substance abuse providers in the last quarter of 2016 and first quarter of 2017.
McDermed said she has learned much from her involvement.
“One thing I have learned here on the Mental Health Committee and that we have all learned is there isn’t a family in Illinois or the United States that is not affected by mental health issues including my own family,” McDermed said.
The representative wanted more information on federal funds available to ensure mental health parity application in Illinois. Tim Clement, senior policy adviser for the Kennedy Forum, said Illinois had been given funds through Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.
“They have been issuing a number of grants related to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act's Mental Health Parity and Addiction Act in the individual and small group markets,” Clement said. “The Illinois Department of Insurance got $1.4 million to do a number of things, some of them very specific, to parity enforcement implementation including proactive enforcement of insurers.”
The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Act essentially mandates that group health plans and health insurance issuers recognize mental health conditions and substance use as equal to physical illnesses.
Speaking of the Illinois Insurance Department, McDermed wanted to know why no one from that agency was present at the hearing.
“We are talking continuously about the Department of Insurance and I noticed that they are not here today, is it the intention of the committee to hear from them at some point?” McDermed asked.
House Mental Health Committee Chair Deb Conroy (D-Villa Park) had no answer for McDermed.
“I do not understand why they are not here, I feel it is very disappointing they did not feel that it was important to be here,” Conroy said.