Staff in the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection have submitted a comment to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, U.S. Department of Labor, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services supporting proposed amendments to regulations implementing the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act.
In the comment, the staff share concerns with other federal agencies regarding the devastating toll of substance abuse disorders (SUDs) on individuals, families, and communities, as well as the ways in which consumers seeking treatment may be preyed upon by unscrupulous actors.
The comment further details how the FTC has used additional enforcement tools included in the 2018 Opioid Addiction Recovery Fraud Prevention Act (OARFPA) to combat SUD treatment scams. In the past two years, the Commission has brought four enforcement actions under OARFPA, resulting in significant civil penalties and redress against companies and individuals charged with deceptively marketing products and services they falsely claimed could help consumers treat addiction. According to the comment, “Consumers faced with financial impediments, such as lack of insurance coverage, may be particularly susceptible to scams, which may in turn further impede their access to treatment or even derail treatment entirely.”
The comment, however, also points out that insurance coverage does not fully insulate consumers from scammers. Accordingly, local, state, and federal enforcement agencies must have the resources to combat all illegal practices in the addiction space, including insurance fraud. The comment noted that the proposed amendments strike the right balance between leaving intact previous enforcement systems while promoting better insurance coverage for SUD treatment.
The Commission voted 3-0 to approve filing of the staff comment. The lead attorney on the matter is Cassandra Rasmussen in the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.