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EDITORIAL: Mental Health State rightly enforcing insurance parity laws

Free Press - 5/26/2024

May 26—Mental health parity laws have been on the books for decades, but recent enforcement of those laws by the state is now making a difference and getting the attention of those insurance providers who would deny mental health treatment where it should be provided.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce recently fined UnitedHealthcare $450,000 for violating Minnesota mental health parity laws, which require mental health claims be treated no differently than claims for other health care. The state found that UnitedHealthcare applied different standards to scrutinizing mental health claims compared to claims for other health services.

The state and United agreed to a consent decree in which United neither admitted nor denied guilt, but will pay the fine and change its practices. The company must pay $300,000 of the fine now; the rest would be levied later if the organization does not change its practices.

The state alleged that the company "did not demonstrate comparability in reimbursement rates between medical/surgical and mental health and substance abuse disorders."

The company also didn't maintain accurate and complete provider directories, didn't document requested and denied services, didn't advise people of their appeal rights and posted prior authorization data on its public website that was inaccurate. The state also alleged the company applied rules more stringently for mental health prescription drugs.

The state also fined HealthPartners ($150,000) and Medica ($300,000) last year for similar violations of the mental health parity law. Minnesota has been scrutinizing compliance with the parity law after the federal government increased enforcement efforts.

UnitedHealthcare has stepped up its provider network in the last few years and now has some 13,000 providers on its list, according to a report in the Star Tribune.

We applaud stronger state and federal enforcement of these mental health parity laws. Mental health care needs have grown exponentially since the pandemic and beyond, with nearly 40% of those polled saying they experience symptoms of anxiety and depression, according to Kaiser Family Foundation research.

Mental illness is like a physical illness. Those who suffer from it have very little control of it without treatment. It doesn't just get better. And mental health affects everything else we do or try to accomplish as human beings.

Those suffering from mental illness can call the 988 nationwide suicide prevention line.

Consumers with complaints or concerns about health insurance or mental health coverage, can contact the Minnesota Department of Commerce'sConsumer Service Center.

To file a complaint online go to; https://mn.gov/commerce/consumer/file-a-complaint/

Or Email or call: consumer.protection@state.mn.us — 651-539-1600.

To verify whether an insurance agent or insurance company is licensed to do business in Minnesota go to.

https://mn.gov/commerce/licensing/license-lookup/

To search Commerce Actions and Regulatory Documents to view past enforcement actions go to:

https://www.cards.commerce.state.mn.us/

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(c)2024 The Free Press (Mankato, Minn.)

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