New York attorney general awards $13.6M to consumers denied mental healthcare coverage by UnitedHealthcare

New York Attorney General Letitia James' office announced that a settlement administrator has completed $13.6 million in payments to consumers who were denied mental healthcare coverage by UnitedHealthcare. 

The payments come from an agreement between Ms. James and UnitedHealthcare over her federal lawsuit against the payer in August for illegally denying coverage of outpatient psychotherapy to thousands of members, according to a May 20 press release.

Of the $13.6 million sent to individuals across the country, almost $8 million went to more than 20,000 New Yorkers with behavioral health conditions who received denials or reductions in reimbursement. UnitedHealthcare also paid $725,000 directly to consumers who were affected by the lawsuit.

New York and federal law requires mental health and substance use disorder parity under all health plans. Ms. James sued UnitedHealthcare under those laws, claiming two practices by the company violated behavioral health parity laws by improperly restricting coverage of psychotherapy. 

According to Ms. James, UnitedHealthcare had reduced reimbursement to members for psychotherapy and set arbitrary thresholds to trigger reviews of psychotherapy treatments, often leading to denials of coverage.

"I am proud to have recovered millions of dollars for New Yorkers who were denied access to mental healthcare," Ms. James said. "In this time of extreme stress, devastation and pain, we must ensure more care — not less — for those seeking the help they need. I will always work to tear down the barriers to healthcare established by insurance companies and hold these companies accountable for failing our communities."

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