Health Plans Can’t Discriminate Against Mental Health Treatment Says Ninth Circuit
Posted Thursday, June 14, 2018 by Pivotal Law Group
Among the challenges of a mental health condition is the difficulty persuading health insurers to cover treatment. Mental health conditions can be difficult to objectively diagnose and can require lengthy and expensive treatment often with little prospect of a conventional “cure.” Hence, health plans have a powerful incentive to minimize coverage for mental health conditions to reduce costs. In response, the federal government, as well as Washington and many other states, have enacted mental health parity laws. In general, these laws prohibit health insurers and health plans from discriminating against mental health conditions by mandating mental health conditions be covered to the same degree as physical ailments.
On June 6, 2018, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed the federal Mental Health Parity Act prohibits health plans from discriminating against mental health conditions for the purposes of health insurance coverage. In Danny P. v. Catholic Health Initiatives, the court determined the health plan violated the law by denying the plaintiff’s claim for the cost of an inpatient stay at a residential mental health treatment facility.
In ruling for the plaintiffs, the court determined the Mental Health Parity Act required the health plan’s coverage of inpatient mental health treatment facilities be no more restrictive than coverage for stays at skilled nursing facilities. Since the Act prohibited imposing more restrictive coverage requirements on mental health treatment than on treatment for physical conditions, the Act precluded the health plan from deciding to cover room and board at skilled nursing facilities for medical patients while refusing to provide the same coverage for mental health inpatient care.
The Danny P. decision is an important win for patients seeking mental health treatment and vindicates Congress’ intent in passing the Mental Health Parity Act that mental health patients be free from discrimination by their health plans.
Pivotal Law Group attorney McKean J. Evans represents insureds and employees in health plan coverage disputes, and has successfully compelled health insurance plans to cover treatment. If you have questions about health insurance coverage, contact McKean for a free consultation.