Patrick Kennedy Urges Congress To Fight "Illegal" Denial Of Addiction Services

By Paul Gaita 03/20/19
The former U.S. Representative is urging state officials to end “deceptive and discriminatory practices by health insurance plans.”
Patrick Kennedy
Photo via YouTube

Former U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy joined a group of mental health advocates to fight for the rights of individuals to receive legally mandated coverage of mental health and addiction services without being subjected to what he called "deceptive and discriminatory health insurance plans." 

Kennedy was a co-signer on letters sent to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, as well as state attorneys general and insurance commissioners, that cited a recent class-action lawsuit against a major behavioral health care company, United Behavioral Health, which was deemed to have used "flawed and overly restrictive internal guidelines" to deny coverage to tens of thousands of mental health and substance use disorder patients, including many children.

"In short, the nation's largest managed behavioral health care company was found liable for protecting its bottom line at the expense of its vulnerable members," read the letter.

The other signers were former U.S. Rep. James Ramstad; Mary Giliberti, CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI); and Mental Health America president and CEO Paul Gionfriddo.

As the Providence Journal noted, Kennedy has been a longtime advocate for mental health and addiction services. He co-sponsored the Mental Health Parity and Addition Equity Act of 2008, which mandates health insurers to provide coverage for treatment for mental health and addiction disorders on par with coverage for physical health care. 

After leaving the House of Representatives in 2011, Kennedy has advocated for mental health and addiction issues, most recently at the Connecticut State Capitol, where on March 5, he advocated for the passage of House Bill 7125, which would require health insurance companies to provide the state General Assembly an annual report on parity efforts for mental health and dependency benefits.

The letter submitted by Kennedy and his co-signers noted that the lawsuit involving United Behavioral Health was not an isolated incident. "Other health plans, such as Aetna, Kaiser, and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield have also been subject to recent court decisions and regulatory fines," they stated in the letter.

"As rates of overdoses and suicides continue to decrease U.S. life expectancy, our nation must ensure that people have access to treatment for mental health and substance use disorders," the letter concluded. "Illegal insurance denials should not stand in their way."

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.