Managed Care Organizations Oppose Parity

An organization called the Coalition for Parity, Inc. comprised of managed behavioral health organizations (MBHOs) has filed suit to halt the implementation of the Paul Wellstone and Pete Dominici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. This group has as some of its members Value Options, Magellan Health Services Inc., and Beacon Health Strategies Inc.

As reported by Open Minds and American Psychological Association Practice Organization, the lawsuit challenges the rulemaking process and has requested a temporary restraining order to stop the rulemaking process from moving forward. They argue that the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury overstepped their rulemaking authority in how they interpreted the statutory language and violated federal rulemaking procedure in publishing the rule as they did. While the judge denied the temporary restraining order because the law will not be enforced until July 1, 2010, the court will hear the case as presented by the parties to the action.

On May 9, 2010, the NY Times reported that insurance companies and employer groups are also objecting to the rules.

In a suit over the rules, Magellan and other companies said the concept of nonquantitative limits was “boundless and ill defined” and would reach virtually every policy and procedure used to manage mental health benefits.

As most mental health providers can readily attest, the procedures used by insurers and managed care organizations to limit costs and usage of behavioral health services have themselves been “boundless and ill defined”; after all, a treatment plan certainly could not be a valid treatment plan if it is printed on the wrong form. The MBHOs have been innovative in their development of “every policy and procedure used to manage mental health benefits.” Unfortunately, most of that management has consisted of denying or limiting the amount of service provided and placing onerous requirements on providers.

The NYTimes article states that:

One premise of the law is that mental illnesses often have a biological basis and can be treated as effectively as many physical ailments. But insurers say it is impossible to use the same techniques in managing the treatment of colon cancer and schizophrenia, or heart failure and major depression.

What do you think? Is it reasonable to assume that mental illness and addiction can be managed using the same techniques as are used to manage the treatment of cancer or heart disease?

Please share your comments below.

One thought on “Managed Care Organizations Oppose Parity

  • Kathy,
    I attended our annual state psychology convention. Keynote speaker was James Bray, past APA president. He discussed the political manuevering in DC around Parity. One very real possibility is that one interpretation of the law will find that mental health carve outs can not exist under parity as this does not occur in primary care policies. Imagine that MH care can be delivered with the same efficiency that primary care is delivered! After all, MH care SHOULD be primary care. Much is to be decided and that is why we need to remain politically active. Remember, entities like Magellan and the “Coalition for Parity” do NOT vote. Our patients and you and I do. Vince

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