BOSTON– A bill introduced by Senator Brian A. Joyce that would allow consumers to sue insurers who fail to provide the same coverage for mental illness provided for physical illness has received the approval of the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse. The legislation would allow individual or class action lawsuits against an insurer and allow for the recuperation of court costs, attorneys’ fees and damages should the courts find the insurer illegally denied mental health treatment provided under the law.
“There’s no question that despite federal and state laws illegal barriers are still being constructed by some insurers for people who need mental health and substance abuse services,” said Joyce. “It’s unfortunate that parity has not been fully embraced by all insurers and that some residents are struggling to have their rights recognized.”
The bill has earned the support of numerous advocacy organizations, like The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery (MOAR), Children’s Mental Health Campaign, Health Care for All, the MA Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, and others. It also has 25 legislative co-sponsors between the state Senate and House.
Both state and federal laws passed in recent years require insurers to cover treatment for mental health and substance abuse disorders equal to physical ailments. Though the laws passed, some insurers still deny more expensive treatments, such as inpatient treatments, or require facilities to comply with stringent and burdensome guidelines that place an excessive burden on providers.