New York's Mental Health Parity Law to be Tested in Court
A class-action lawsuit filed on June 4, 2014 in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Suffolk was recently served on UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company of New York, and United Behavioral Health (doing business as OptumHealth Behavioral Solutions). The Empire Plan is also named as a defendant. The complaint alleges that the defendants’ practices violate anti-discrimination laws protecting crucial access to mental health services, including outpatient psychotherapy, to artificially inflate corporate profits and limit costs.
“By attempting to ration outpatient psychotherapy for mentally ill patients, defendants have flagrantly jeopardized the health and well-being of their insured members,” said Meiram Bendat, mental health attorney and founder of Psych-Appeal Inc.
Through December 31, 2013, UHC administered the Empire Plan’s mental health and substance abuse program, which insures more than one million participating New York state employees and their dependents, including members of the state executive branch, judiciary, legislature, public school teachers, firefighters and police officers. The class-action suit alleges that during this time, UHC violated Timothy’s Law, which requires insurers to administer benefits for severe mental illnesses in parity with medical and surgical benefits. In the case of the lead plaintiff, the complaint alleges that the defendants’ rationing practices led to his college age son’s psychiatric hospitalization and academic withdrawal.
“Without a private right to enforce Timothy’s Law and class-wide relief, insurers like UHC will continue to pay lip service to mental health parity,” added co-counsel Anthony F. Maul of The Maul Firm, P.C.
The complaint also alleges that UHC failed to maintain an independent appeals process to review coverage denials.