During a U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee markup of the Opioid Crisis Response Act on Tuesday, Republicans voted down an amendment authored by U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) to hold insurance companies and employers accountable for not covering mental health and addiction treatment. Murphy’s amendment was based on recommendations issued by President Trump’s opioid commission. It would have given the U.S. Department of Labor – a major regulator of health insurance – new tools to enforce existing parity laws, including allowing the Department to issue civil monetary penalties against insurance companies and employers that do not cover mental health and addiction services at the same rate as physical health benefits. The amendment failed by a vote of 11 to 12.
Earlier this month, Murphy questioned U.S. Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta over unequal insurance coverage of mental health and addiction services. Secretary Acosta specifically asked for these new tools to be included in Murphy’s amendment. 90 different national and state organizations who represent mental health and addiction providers and stakeholders sent a letter in support of the provisions included in Murphy’s amendment.