In an effort to expand access to mental health care for millions of Americans, U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) urged the Obama Administration to fully implement a law passed five years ago that requires insurance companies to cover mental health care to the same extent as other medical services. During a Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on delayed federal regulations, Sen. Franken heard from witnesses on how the lack of final rules have harmed access to critical mental health services.
The Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, which was passed in 2008, requires group health plans to cover mental health and substance use disorder services at the same level that medical and surgical benefits are covered. The interim final regulations for the law were released in 2010, but the lack of final regulations makes the full implementation of the law extremely difficult if not impossible.
"Millions of Americans who need mental health and substance use disorder services are prevented from getting them because we have not fully implemented the necessary rules," said Sen. Franken. "The Administration needs to get this done as soon as possible. Minnesota has a special interest in this because Senator Paul Wellstone and Congressman Jim Ramstad were very active in making mental health parity a national priority. I'm going to continue to press to get this law fully implemented."
Sen. Franken is a champion of mental health care and has been pushing for the implementation of the mental health parity law since his first days in the Senate. He has led several Congressional letters urging the Obama Administration to move forward with the implementation of mental health parity, most recently writing to President Obama last week.
During the hearing, Sen. Franken heard from a mother who has struggled to receive mental health coverage for her daughter. Sen. Franken has also authored legislation to ensure that schools provide access to critical mental health treatment for kids who need those services. You can read more about Sen. Franken's Mental Health in Schools Act here. And he introduced the bipartisan Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Act to bring more resources to law enforcement, the courts, and correctional facilities to help them better deal with the increasingly-prevalent mental health issues they encounter.