A roundtable discussion held by the Bipartisan Opioid Task Force this week focused on challenges blocking access to mental health and substance use treatment under various insurance plans, despite federal laws.
“Mental health and opioid addiction are epidemics that require immediate and constant bipartisan focus, for the health and well-being of all our communities, and it requires a multi-faceted response. Our communities need our help before it is too late,” U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), joint leader of the task force, said. “We must continue to support law enforcement efforts while also focusing on the underlying issues driving people to seek opioids and working to increasing the accessibility and affordability for prevention, education, treatment, and recovery of addiction and mental health challenges.”
In attendance were Dr. Neeraj Gandotra, Chief Medical Officer at The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; Preston Rutledge, Assistant Secretary of Labor at the Employee Benefits Security Administration; Dr. Carole Pratt, Senior Policy Advisor at the Virginia Department of Health; and Mira Signer, Chief Deputy Commissioner for Community Behavioral Health at the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Services.
Gandotra addressed how the Department of Health must support insurance plans which implement the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 — a law that requires group health plans and health insurance providers to reimburse mental health and substance abuse services at the same rates as other medical services. Such parity is a major goal of the Bipartisan Opioid Task Force.
“If we want to make headway in combating the substance misuse crisis, we must ensure people struggling with addiction are able to access quality treatment and mental health services,” U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster (D-NH), the other joint leader of the task force, said. “Addiction and substance misuse must be treated like any other chronic disease. That’s why it’s critical that insurance companies do not under value these essential services. I appreciate the opportunity to hear from experts in this field, and I look forward to sharing their insights with my colleagues as we continue working to curb the opioid epidemic.”