May 28,2020

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Wyden Asks Federal Watchdog to Investigate Mental Health Services Contracts Among Insurance Companies

As COVID-19 Pandemic Increases Demand for Mental Health Services, Finance Ranking Member Asks for Data on Mental Health Parity

Top Democrat for the First Time Seeks Investigation Into Practices That May Skirt Mental Health Parity Laws

Washington, D.C. – Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today asked federal watchdogs to review the prevalence and consequences of insurance companies subcontracting mental health service coverage to a different insurance company. In a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Wyden asked the agency to review whether plans that subcontract mental health coverage experience differences in treatment limits or their ability to meet federal mental health parity requirements.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed shortfalls across the health care system, and mental health care is no exception,” Wyden said. “Millions of Americans are struggling with the consequences of job loss, isolation and other difficulties associated with this crisis. I’ve asked GAO to look at this issue to ensure all insurance plans that cover mental health services are meeting their legal requirements and covering this critical care for those who need it.” 

Wyden’s request to GAO comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted the need for adequate mental health care. More than half of all Americans have reported that the crisis has taken a toll on their mental health, with one in five reporting it has had a “major impact.” There have also been dramatic increases in usage of mental health hotlines and online services.

The letter calls for the federal watchdog to examine the role of behavioral health service organizations in the administration of mental health care. These organizations are subcontracted by health plans across Medicaid, Medicare Advantage, employer-sponsored insurance and the commercial market to oversee and pay for a person’s mental health care services. Wyden received reports from health care providers that these organizations may be more likely to deny coverage or refuse adequate payment for services.

The full letter can be found here.