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House Passes Rep. Porter’s Legislation to Improve Mental Health Coverage for Public Servants

Congresswoman’s bill would crack down on insurers that do not have mental health parity for frontline workers

WASHINGTON—The House of Representatives today passed legislation from Congresswoman Katie Porter (D-CA) to improve insurance coverage for mental health and substance use disorder treatment for firefighters, public school teachers, police, and other frontline workers. The House approved provisions from Congresswoman Porter’s Closing Health Coverage Gaps for Public Servants Act, co-led by Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI), which would make certain health care plans covering city and state employees abide by mental health parity laws. These requirements prohibit mental health coverage from being more restrictive than coverage for other types of medical care. 

“Caring for mental health is just as important as caring for physical health,” said Porter. “Health insurance companies are exploiting loopholes in the law to avoid covering mental health services for frontline workers in our communities. I’m proud the House approved my proposal to strengthen current law and provide firefighters, teachers, police, and other local public servants with the same protections as everyone else.”

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act became law in 2008, but more than a decade later, health plans and insurers continue to violate the law or exploit loopholes to avoid providing equal coverage for mental and physical care. Porter’s legislation to strengthen enforcement of federal parity laws, the Mental Health Parity Compliance Act, was signed into law in December 2020. Despite these requirements, 210 self-funded, non-federal government health care plans have opted-out of benefits that other plans are required to provide, including plans in Orange County. Of these 210 plans, all but one have chosen not to provide mental health and substance use disorder parity protections.

“Our frontline workers face an enormous amount of stress every day, which takes a tremendous toll on their physical and mental well-being,” said Dingell. “While in my district, I heard from a family struggling to cope with the loss of their son who committed suicide after serving on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic as a nurse. These brave men and women put their lives on the line for all of us, yet far too many lack access to quality mental health care coverage because of loopholes in our laws. I’m grateful to Representative Porter’s partnership on this long-overdue legislation that rights this wrong and protects our nation’s police, firefighters, public school teachers, and city and state workers once and for all.”

Porter has consistently fought to improve mental health care throughout her time in Congress. Last year, she introduced bipartisan legislation to help meet the skyrocketing demand for mental and behavioral health services during the pandemic. She has also urged her colleagues on both sides of the aisle to better protect young people struggling with mental health issues, and praised Orange County schools for prioritizing the mental health needs of students.