WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 28, 2019) – The US Department of Labor, US Department of Health and Humans Services, and the US Department of the Treasury released guidance last month entitled, “FAQs About Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity Implementation and the 21st Century Cures Act Part 39,” providing additional direction to insurance plans, issuers, and outside stakeholders in an effort to promote compliance with the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA). The Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy & Action (EDC) applauds the Departments additional guidance, including new clarifications that will enhance insurance coverage for eating disorders as a result of the Anna Westin Act provisions included within the 21st Century Cures Act (P.L. 114-255).The EDC has worked tirelessly to educate federal agencies on the barriers to care for individuals and families with eating disorders. This work has included submission of public comments on previous federal guidance documents in September 2017 and June 2018; Congressional letters of support in 2017 (House/Senate) and 2018 (House/Senate); and participation in a July 2018 and a January 2019 federally hosted forums with stakeholders and federal agencies to discuss MHPAEA implementation. The most recent guidance from the Departments includes victories for our community regarding the following:
- Coverage of Sub-group Disorders: When a plan or issuer provides benefits for a mental health condition/substance use disorder, benefits for that condition or disorder must be provided in every classification in which medical/surgical benefits are provided. Insurance plans are in violation of MHPAEA if coverage for eating disorders does not extend to all sub-types including, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, and other specified feeding or eating disorders (OSFED).
- Shifting the Burden of Proof for Fail-First Policies to Payers: It is incumbent upon the insurance company, not the patient, to prove they’re in compliance with step therapy protocols and are able to demonstrate evidentiary standards were utilized comparably to develop step therapy requirements between mental health/substance use disorder benefits and medical/surgical benefits.
- Residential Care Classified as Inpatient, Covered Benefit: Residential eating disorders treatment is classified as a sub-category of inpatient care to ensure the patient receives their inpatient covered benefit just as skilled nursing facilities, nursing home care, and hospice are considered sub-categories of inpatient care.
- Rights to Receive Medical Necessity and Denial Information: Insurance plans must provide current/potential patients and contracted providers with free of charge information regarding claim denials and related documents on medical necessity requirements to file within 30 days of a participant’s request.“The recent guidance from the Departments provides further clarity to individuals and families with eating disorders, treatment providers, and insurance companies to fully comply with the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act as intended,” said EDC Board President Chase Bannister, MDIV, MSW, LCSW, CEDS. “Our coalition has worked diligently to fight for equitable treatment under the law. We will remain steadfast in our mission to continue having a seat at the table as we educate the Departments on MHPAEA violations and work together to drive change for those in need of treatment.”The EDC recognizes that parity enforcement and compliance both remain a work in progress, therefore we will continue to use our collective voice to provide expertise to the Departments as they release additional implementation guidance on a rolling basis.The Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy & Action (EDC) is a Washington, DC-based, federal advocacy organization comprised of advocacy organizations, academics, treatment providers, family/loved ones of children with eating disorders and people experiencing eating disorders nationwide. The EDC advances the recognition of eating disorders as a public health priority throughout the United States. Additional resources can also be found at www.eatingdisorderscoalition.org.