Maryland creates legislation that will promote enforcement of the federal parity law

On May 2, Governor O’Malley signed into law two pieces of legislation that will better enable the Maryland Insurance Administration to fully enforce the federal parity law and better allow consumers to exercise their rights. A small group of parity advocates including MHAMD, NCADD Maryland, and the University of Maryland Law School Drug Policy Clinic advocated for the passage of three bills in the 2013 session and were successful in working with stakeholders to ensure passage of two of them.

HB 1216/SB 581  This bill, introduced by Delegate Kelly and Senator Kelley, requires insurers to provide notice on their websites and annually in print  (1) of the benefits required under State and federal parity laws and (2) that the member may contact the Maryland Insurance Administration (MIA) for further information. The bill will also assist consumers in enforcing their rights by making important ‘release of information’ documents more accessible and by requiring the MIA to post on its website information about the complaint process, including where an individual may turn for assistance in filing a complaint.

HB 1252/SB 582 This bill, introduced by Delegate Kelly and Senator Kelley, requires that the criteria and standards used in conducting utilization review for mental health and substance use benefits are in compliance with MHPAEA. Any criteria used for determinations of medical necessity must comply with the federal parity law, and MIA will now have enforcement authority to ensure compliance.

Heavy opposition from insurers prevented passage of HB 1001/SB 585. This bill, modeled after legislation enacted in Massachusetts in 2012, would have required insurers to file annual reports demonstrating parity compliance. Work is already underway to continue these efforts during the interim with the potential of re-introducing the same or similar legislation in the 2014 session.