Democrat lawmakers call on regulators to ensure mega-mergers don't restrict access to mental health services

November 01, 2015

Several U.S. House Democrats are asking federal antitrust regulators evaluating the proposed mergers of Anthem-Cigna and Aetna-Humana to protect against potential reductions in patient access to mental health and substance abuse benefits, should the deals be approved. In a letter to the U.S. Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission, Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, D-Mass., said the mergers would likely erode the availability of mental healthcare and substance abuse treatment services. The letter was co-signed by Reps. Doris Matsui, D-Calif., Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. Rep. Kennedy referenced statistics published by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the National Institute of Mental Health that indicate that 55% of U.S. counties have no practicing psychiatrists, psychologists or social workers, despite 20% of American adults having been diagnosed with a mental disorder within the past year. He called for federal policy to increase resources throughout the mental health system and to hold insurance providers accountable to parity obligations under law. He noted that the proposed mergers could be particularly harmful to Medicaid beneficiaries with mental health and substance abuse treatment needs, as three-quarters of them are in managed care plans.