Bennet, Colleagues Put Forward Policies to Put Access to Mental Health Care on Par With Physical Health Care

Senators’ Discussion Draft Suggests Policies to Equitably Treat Mental and Physical Health for Americans Enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid

Washington, D.C. – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet joined Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), and U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.), in releasing a discussion draft including policies aimed at improving mental health parity in Medicare and Medicaid and helping to put access to mental health and behavioral health services on par with physical health care. 

“As I travel across Colorado, I consistently hear about the mental and behavioral health challenges Coloradans and their children experience and the difficulties they face finding affordable, high-quality care. We need to change our approach to ensure our health care system equitably addresses both mental and physical health. These policies are a step forward to help achieve parity, and I’ll continue working to reimagine our mental and behavioral health system to better care for Coloradans and families across the country,” said Bennet.

Policies in the discussion draft include:

  • Strengthening the accuracy of provider directories in Medicare Advantage plans.

  • Strengthening requirements in Medicaid for managed care organizations and states to maintain regularly updated provider directories that include, in part, information on accessing care from behavioral health professionals.

  • Directing GAO to conduct a study of the differences in enrollee cost-sharing and utilization management between behavioral and non-behavioral health services in Medicare Advantage and compared to traditional Medicare.

  • Requiring Medicare to provide guidance to health care providers detailing the extent to which Medicare beneficiaries with substance use disorders can receive partial hospitalization program services.

  • Directing GAO to report on Medicaid payment rates for behavioral health services compared to medical and surgical services across a sample of states.

This discussion draft on mental health parity is the fifth and final legislative draft the Finance Committee has released since kicking off its bipartisan mental health initiative. The first, released in May, focused on telehealth policies. The second, released in June, focused on youth mental health. The third, released in September, focused on expanding the mental health care workforce. The fourth, released in November, focused on integrating physical health and mental health care providers.

Bennet is a leading voice in Congress seeking bipartisan action on our nation’s ongoing mental and behavioral health crisis. In November, Bennet introduced the Mental and Physical Health Care Comorbidities Act to support the holistic health of patients with both mental and physical health conditions. Last year, Bennet released a whitepaper entitled ‘A Bold Vision for America’s Mental Well-being’ with Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) to build bipartisan consensus on redesigning our nation’s mental health care system and reevaluating federal funding toward this effort. 

The full text of the discussion draft is available HERE