Patient Advocates, Others Invited to Offer Thoughts on Mental Health Insurance Parity

By A.J. Plunkett

Patients, patient advocates and anyone else concerned about whether mental health and substance abuse treatment is covered by insurance on even footing with medical conditions is being invited to offer comments and attend a public stakeholder meeting in Washington on July 27.

Interested parties will also be able to listen to the meeting online.

To participate, you must send an email to email to with “July 27 Public Meeting” in the subject line by Friday, July 21, so that your name can be put on a list of expected attendees and forwarded to building security, according to an advance notice published June 30 in the Federal Register.

Seating is limited to only 75 people. However, you can submit written comments from July 13 through Aug. 10, according to the notice.

The public stakeholder listening session on “Strategies for Improving Parity for Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Coverage” was mandated in the 21st Century Cures Act.

The stakeholder listening session is the latest in a series of mandates that began in 1996 with the passage of the Mental Health Parity Act “requiring comparable annual and lifetime dollar limits on mental health and medical coverage in large group health plans including employer-sponsored group health plans,” according to information at

Although required for some time by federal law, mental health insurance parity is often difficult to understand and compliance is not always evenly implemented state to state, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

In 2008, the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) was signed into law, although a final rule to implement MHPAEA was not approved until 2013.

The 21st Century Cures Act of 2016 outlined steps to be taken by the secretaries of the departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury to ensure compliance, including holding the public stakeholders meeting, according to an April blog post by the health law firm of Hall, Render, Killian, Heath & Lyman, in Indianapolis.

Stakeholders asked to attend will include state health commissioners, state attorneys general, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, health insurance issuers, providers of mental health and substance use disorder treatment, employers, and patients or their advocates, according to the public notice.

The meeting is scheduled to be held July 27, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. (EDT), in the first floor auditorium of the Hubert H. Humphrey Building, 200 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20201. Those wishing to speak will be limited to five (5) minutes each. If attending in person, you will need to arrive at least 45 minutes early to be able to get through security, advises HHS.

To find details of how to ask to speak before the panel, including identifying information you need to provide in the email, or for details on how to submit written comments, go to the public notice at

For more information on mental health and substance use insurance parity, go to

To learn more about HHS’ Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity Task Force, including transcripts of past listening sessions, go to

A.J. Plunkett, editor, Patient Advocate Report (