The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) was the signature achievement of Patrick Kennedy’s 16 years in Congress. Its passage in 2008 was the culmination of perseverance over many years to overcome institutionalized insurance discrimination against persons with mental illnesses and substance use disorders. 

Passage of MHPAEA was not the end of the struggle. It took five years for the federal government to issue final regulations for the implementation of the law, and even they were incomplete as the law’s application to managed care plans under Medicaid has still not been defined. The new rule becomes effective July 1, 2014, starting the next chapter of the party saga. This critical phase will determine how parity is put into practice, and it is rife with many questions: Will employers and consumers know their rights and responsibilities under the law? Will health plans and insurers follow the law and pay for behavioral health services equal to those routinely covered for other conditions? Will federal and state regulators monitor and enforce compliance with the law? How will state and federal courts interpret the law as questions about its implementation come before them?

Patrick Kennedy will see answers to these questions and make its findings public. Through existing relationships with the Parity Implementation Coalition, the Treatment Research Institute, the National Business Group on Health, and other interested parties. Patrick’s goal is to change public perceptions so that Americans see the availability and provision of quality mental health services as a community responsibility and an enhancement of community life that is both desirable and attainable.

“We need to make the scope of mental health coverage the same as all the rest of physical health care coverage.”