President Joe Biden delivered remarks Tuesday afternoon, sharing details of a plan to make it easier for people to receive mental health care.
“Improving our mental health system means addressing the 3 C’s — coverage, care, and causes. Today, we took a big step in coverage. Now we need to keep expanding care,” Biden said.
A proposed rule will aim to enforce compliance with a 2008 law that requires equal coverage for mental health and physical health services, which is often not adhered to by insurers.
“That law was passed to ensure that mental health care was treated by our health care system, like physical care,” Biden’s domestic policy adviser, Neera Tanden, told reporters during a recent telephone call. “Insurance couldn’t make you pay more for a visit to a mental health provider than your physician.”
“But in the years since, we’ve learned that insurers are evading the mandate of law,” she added. “Insurers make it difficult to access mental health coverage in-network, and then consumers are often forced to seek care out-of-network at significantly higher cost and pay out of pocket. Or — and this is this is also a real challenge — they defer care altogether.”
The new policy will crack down on violations of the law by creating more reporting standards and encouraging mental health professionals to offer in-network care. It will also reduce the “red tape” to qualify for mental health coverage, making it easier for people to access the care they need.
The current system has been criticized for not being compliant with the 2008 law, leading to difficulties for patients in accessing mental health services. The proposed rule will require insurers to collect data on the barriers to mental health coverage and take steps to address them.
During a speech at the White House, President Biden emphasized the importance of treating mental health and physical health equally, stating that there should be no distinction between the two when it comes to healthcare.
“I don’t know what the difference between breaking your arm and having a mental breakdown is,” Biden said. “It’s health. There’s no distinction. It’s health.”
And he lamented the fact that “seeing a therapist can cost 200 bucks a visit or more — that’s $800 a month if you have a session every week, which is often what patients need.”
“We have a moral obligation, in my view, to be there for each other,” Biden said, “to reach out, reach to our neighbors in grief and stress and trauma and despair, reach out to them to offer help or just a listening ear, to have the courage to ask for help when we need it — and it’s hard.”
The proposed policy will undergo a 60-day public comment period before implementation, and its effectiveness will be closely monitored by mental health advocates.
This move is part of a broader push by the Biden administration to improve mental health care in the United States. The administration has already allocated funding for mental health programs, including support for schools and communities, awareness programs, grants for children’s mental health services, and training for pediatric providers. The goal is to ensure that all Americans have access to the mental health services they need and to achieve full parity between mental health and physical health care.