Insurers still deny mental health claims despite parity laws: 5 things to know

While U.S. lawmakers passed a mental health parity law in 2008 requiring insurers to provide comparable coverage for medical and mental health treatments, payers are continuing to deny claims, limit coverage and skirt the law, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

Five things to know:

1. In March, a judge found UnitedHealth Group subsidiary United Behavioral Health breached its fiduciary duty by instituting guidelines that denied care to patients needing mental health treatment to cut costs.

2. In response to the judge's decision, United Behavioral Health said it changed its guidelines, telling Bloomberg Businessweek, "Our policies have and will continue to meet all regulations." In May, United Behavioral Health requested the court to decertify the class-action lawsuit, meaning only plaintiffs named in the case could get remedies.

3. In addition to widespread denials, patients often cite "ghost networks" as a continuous problem for seeking adequate mental health treatment. Ghost networks are insurance directories that are not updated with accurate in-network provider information.

4. In December 2018, Aetna reached an agreement to improve its provider directories after a Massachusetts attorney general investigation uncovered inaccuracies in its network information. For instance, when members called mental health physicians listed in Aetna's directory, they learned the phone number was incorrect or that the provider had moved, was not accepting new patients or had retired.

5. While some studies have found parity laws increased the use of outpatient addiction treatment services and the frequency of visits among patients already seeking mental health services, the U.S. mental health system continues to see rising rates of suicide and fatal overdoses, according to the report.

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