Press Release

Welch Joins Murphy, Padilla in Urging Biden Administration to Finalize Rules to Strengthen Mental Health Parity

Jun 6, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. —Today, U.S. Senators Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) led a group of senators advocating for the Biden Administration to finalize the mental health parity rules proposed last summer. In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, Assistant Secretary of Employee Benefits Security Administration Lisa Gomez, and Deputy Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service Douglas O’Donnell, the senators emphasize that these rules will hold insurers accountable and ensure they follow the law, which requires them to cover mental health and substance use disorders the same way that they cover physical health. U.S. Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) also signed the letter. 

On the scope of the mental health crisis, the senators wrote: “More than two-thirds of the 1 in 5 Americans who experience a mental health condition in any year do not receive any treatment. The consequences are devastating to our communities. In the latest 12 months, nearly 110,000 Americans died of drug overdoses, and nearly 50,000 Americans died by suicide. Children have been among the hardest hit, with the effects of the pandemic still being felt by families and communities across the country.” 

The senators detailed how insurance companies dodge compliance to deny coverage: “Americans seeking care from a psychiatrist were forced to go out of network to obtain care 8.9 times more often than for medical/surgical specialists, and telehealth services were 4.7 times more likely to be out of network in cases where the patient was receiving mental health services. While insurers cite a lack of available providers, there is actually a greater shortage of primary care providers than mental health providers, yet mental health services are still denied at a greater rate.” 

“The data also reveals that insurers pay significantly higher rates than Medicare to boost their networks for physical health providers but fail to do the same for MH/SUD providers. When reimbursement rates are low, the money simply isn’t there to equip our health care system to treat patients for mental health conditions,” the senators added. 

The senators highlighted how these rules will improve access to mental health care once finalized: “These rules will close existing loopholes in the law, expand narrow networks, and prohibit restrictive practices that prevent families from accessing care. Particularly important are the rules that combat the nonquantitative treatment limitations that are being used to deny mental health services to patients. These commonsense parity rules will help Americans suffering from mental health conditions or substance use disorder, reduce costs for taxpayers, and save lives.” 

Senator Welch has long supported initiatives to address the ongoing substance-use and mental heath crisis and increase health care affordability and accessibility for Vermonters. This month, Senator Welch called on the Senate Appropriations Committee to fully fund programs that provide states with the funding and resources they need to build robust prevention, treatment, and recovery services in upcoming Fiscal Year 2025 appropriations bills. Also in May, Welch hosted a roundtable in Burlington to discuss making health care more affordable for Vermonters and people across the country. 

Last year, Sen. Welch led a bipartisan, bicameral letter to U.S. Dept. Of Health and Human Services Secretary Becerra and Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Dr. Rahul Gupta requesting information on the Biden Administration’s efforts to expand access to contingency management services, one of the only evidence-based treatments for stimulant use disorder. 

Read the full letter