Members call for legislation to be included in mental health package

46 mental health advocacy organizations have endorsed bipartisan reforms that would modernize and streamline the prior authorization process. 

Mental Health Groups Endorse Bipartisan Prior Authorization Legislation

Today, a coalition of 46 mental health advocacy organizations endorsed bipartisan reforms that would modernize and streamline the prior authorization process. Led by the Mental Health Liaison Group (MHLG), the coalition sent a letter to the sponsors of the Improving Seniors’ Timely Access to Care Act (H.R. 3173/S. 3018) announcing their support for the bipartisan legislation that would streamline and standardize the way Medicare Advantage (MA) plans use prior authorization and increase oversight and transparency around prior authorization.

“Communities are facing an unprecedented mental health and substance use crisis, greatly exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, many of our groups have seen a significant increase in the use of prior authorization over the last decade, most egregiously during the pandemic,” says the MHLG letter. “Delays and denials of care can have serious and sometimes devastating effects on patients in need of mental health/substance use treatment and services. Removing barriers to patients’ timely access to care should enable providers to spend more time treating patients and less time on bureaucratic hurdles.”

The Improving Seniors’ Timely Access to Care Act is sponsored by Representatives Suzan DelBene (WA-01), Mike Kelly (PA-16), Ami Bera (CA-07), and Larry Bucshon (IN-08), and Senators Roger Marshall (KS), Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), and John Thune (SD). The bill has the endorsement of over 400 health care organizations and is cosponsored by over 270 Members of the House of Representatives.

“The current state of prior authorization delays critical care for our seniors and can worsen health outcomes. This is particularly true for mental health and addiction care where timely treatments make all the difference. We welcome the support of the Mental Health Liaison Group and thank its partners for pushing to have this bill included in the upcoming mental health legislative package,” said House sponsors Reps. DelBene, Kelly, Bera, and Bucshon, and Sen. Marshall. “These are commonsense and overwhelmingly bipartisan reforms that will make a huge difference for seniors seeking care and their families.”

The MHLG endorsement follows a Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Treasury joint report to Congress that highlights the disproportionate burden health insurance plans place on accessing mental health services. The January 2022 report emphasizes health plans’ poor compliance with the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and underscores the disproportionate application of utilization tools, like prior authorization, on mental health services.

The letter can be found here.

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