KENNEDY STATEMENT ON HOUSE MENTAL HEALTH BILL
Washington, DC – Ahead of an Energy & Commerce Committee mark-up on mental health reform, Congressman Joe Kennedy III released the following statement.
“Today our nation faces a mental health system plagued by seismic inadequacies. Lack of funding, access and awareness have devastated families in every corner of the country.
“I’m grateful for the bipartisan efforts and heartened by several provisions in the latest version of the bill, including my proposal to eliminate the discriminatory barrier that forces certain kids covered by Medicaid to choose between mental and physical care. Under Ranking Member Pallone’s leadership, Democrats were able to work across the aisle to push critical policies like these and address significant shortcomings in the original text.”
“As it stands, however, the reforms proposed in this legislation leave substantial holes in the system. This bill does next to nothing to strengthen parity protections, little to address a fast-depleting mental health workforce, and sidesteps ill-advised limits to care and abysmal Medicaid reimbursement rates that jeopardize access to treatment for our most at-risk populations.
“This bill is a good step forward. But it cannot be the end of this discussion, nor be mistaken for the level of comprehensive reform that those suffering from mental illness deserve.”
Since being elected, Congressman Kennedy has been a vocal advocate for systemic reform of the mental health system and needed investment in the full continuum of care. He has focused on enforcement of mental health parity laws, expanded access to substance abuse treatment, and an improved reimbursement system for providers. Recently, Congressman Kennedy introduced a Medicaid Bump to enhance the federal match for new, state-based mental health spending, as well as the Fair Care for Kids Act to remove barriers to mental health treatment for children in Medicaid. He also introduced the Behavioral Health Coverage Transparency Act of 2015, which will hold health insurers accountable for providing adequate mental health benefits and increase transparency for consumers seeking coverage for mental illness and substance use disorders.