Wyden Presses UnitedHealth for Details on Mental Health Coverage Shortfalls

Washington, D.C. – Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today asked health insurance company UnitedHealth to disclose details about its behavioral health business, which has been subject to ongoing class action litigation for improperly denying coverage for mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) care to tens of thousands of Americans.

“The promise of decent mental health coverage has been a mirage for too many Americans,” Wyden said. “For more than a decade, insurance companies have been legally bound to ensure parity between physical and mental health care coverage, but there is increasing evidence that the spirit of the law is not being followed. It’s time for answers and solutions so Americans have access to the mental health care they deserve.”

In the case, Wit V. United Behavioral Health, a federal court found that UnitedHealth’s behavioral health coverage guidelines for employer-sponsored plans were inconsistent with generally accepted standards of care. In today’s letter, Wyden asked for information about whether UnitedHealth is using similar guidelines for the Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, or Children’s Health Insurance Program plans it administers.

Wyden called on UnitedHealth to provide information about its behavioral health business lines, including factors that are driving revenue and profit growth in this area. The letter also requests information about allegations that UnitedHealth directed at least one customer to Medicaid rather than covering the care itself, and whether such practices are widespread at the company. Additionally, the letter seeks details about subsidiaries, affiliates and contractors that UnitedHealth may use to administer behavioral health care coverage for third-party health plans.

The letter comes as demand for mental health care has significantly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has subjected families to extraordinary levels of disruption, isolation, financial instability, and grief.

The full letter to UnitedHealth can be found here.