Labor Department makes mental health parity a 'priority,' works with HHS on enforcement

A Labor Department report found faults both in provider and payer mental health parity, and is now moving forward to further enforce parity and "correct those failures," according to a Jan. 25 Marketplace report.

For the report, the department issued 156 letters to health plans requesting parity data, but none of the responses included "sufficient enough information." Follow-up requests and analysis found 48 cases of noncompliance with federal mental health parity laws. 

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said that despite some protections in the past, the department has never viewed mental health parity as a top-level priority. Now, he's tapping HHS to correct that. 

"It's a priority of mine now, and that’s why — and I've also, with HHS, working with Secretary [Xavier] Becerra — we're making sure that this is going to continue to be a priority here," he said. 

In making sure parity becomes a priority again, there is the potential that the department could need more enforcement power from Congress to ensure national mental health parity is ensured. 

Right now, he said "insurance companies and employers should be doing better," when it comes to parity, but the needle hasn't moved as much as it should. 

"We're going to use every tool that we have under the ability that Congress gave us, and also with [the Department of Health and Human Services], to enforce this and push this law forward," Walsh said.

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