Congressman Donald Norcross

Representing the 1st District of New Jersey
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Norcross, Courtney, Kuster, Fitzpatrick Introduce Bill to Enforce Mental Health Parity, Hold Insurance Companies Accountable

Mar 12, 2021
News Release

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Congressman Donald Norcross (NJ-01), Vice-Chair of the Bipartisan Opioid Task Force, along with the Bipartisan Opioid Task Force Co-Chairs, Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01) and Ann Kuster (NH-02), and Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) introduced the Parity Enforcement Act, H.R. 1364, which expands the U.S. Department of Labor’s authority to hold health insurers and plan sponsors accountable for offering health plans that violate the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008.

“As America continues to battle a public health crisis and economic crisis, the opioid epidemic has been fueled by the pandemic and continues to claim more lives each year than all of the Vietnam War and, unfortunately, suicide is also on the rise in nearly every state in our nation,” said Congressman Norcross. “While mental health parity is rightfully the law of the land, our enforcement mechanisms are severely lacking. Insurance companies can get away with not following parity laws, even though lives are on the line. We can and must do more.”

“America is working to overcome two epidemics right now—the COVID-19 pandemic, and the nationwide opioid epidemic that has unfortunately grown worse over the past year,” said Congressman Courtney. “It’s more important than ever right now to make sure all Americans have access to effective mental health and addiction treatment—it’s one of the best ways we can stem the increase in addiction and overdose, and our bipartisan legislation will provide new authority to ensure employer sponsored insurance plans are following parity rules. I’m proud to join Congressman Norcross in introducing the bipartisan Parity Enforcement Act.”

“As our nation grapples with dual crises – the opioid epidemic and COVID-19 – those seeking treatment for substance abuse disorder and addiction deserve to have faith that they are receiving the best treatment without being taken advantage of,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “We cannot allow insurance companies to continue to get away with violating parity laws. We can and we must do more to save lives, and this legislation is a crucial step in the right direction.”

“The mental health and opioid epidemic sweeping across our nation has only been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, more than ever, we must ensure that all Americans have the access they need to seek out effective mental health and addiction treatment," said Congressman Fitzpatrick. "It is unacceptable when some bad actor insurance companies are able to get away with not following parity laws, whether it be through denying treatment or making access to treatment difficult. Our bipartisan Parity Enforcement Act will empower the US Department of Labor to discourage these unlawful actions and ensure that employer-sponsored insurance plans are compliant with parity rules.”

Click here to view or download the full text of the bill.

Click here to view or download a fact sheet.

This legislation has a broad range of bipartisan and nonpartisan support. The Parity Enforcement Act is also supported by a variety of advocacy leaders, including the Kennedy Forum, the American Psychological Association, the American Society of Addiction Medicine and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

“Insurer discrimination against those with mental health and substance use disorders will continue until the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has the power to enforce the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008,” said former U.S. Representative and founder of The Kennedy Forum and DontDenyMe.org, Patrick J. Kennedy. “Without the ability to levy fines against insurers who violate the law, the DOL is essentially operating with one arm tied behind its back. I applaud Congressman Norcross for introducing this critical legislation, which makes it clear that to achieve parity we must hold insurers accountable.”

“One in five Americans experiences a mental health disorder each year, yet an overwhelming majority of Americans remain unaware that health insurers are required to provide coverage for mental health, behavioral health and substance-use disorders that is comparable to coverage for physical health,” said American Psychological Association CEO Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD. “It is critically important that insurers and plans fully comply with the federal mental health and addiction parity law so that more people who need treatment can access it.”

“Correcting discriminatory insurer practices is critical to removing the stigma surrounding addiction and increasing access to evidence-based treatment for substance use disorder. The American Society of Addiction Medicine fully supports the Parity Enforcement Act of 2021, which would provide much-needed enforcement of existing federal parity law and help more Americans access comprehensive addiction treatment services,” said Paul H. Earley, MD, DFASAM, president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM).

“Mental health parity is the law of the land, yet during these challenging times we are still seeing inconsistent application of the law,” said American Foundation for Suicide Prevention CEO Robert Gebbia. “The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention applauds Congressman Norcross and endorses the Parity Enforcement Act as crucial legislation to put an end to discriminatory mental health coverage.”

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Contact: Carrie Healey, Communications Director
carrie.healey@mail.house.gov