Sullivan and Johns Examine Wilderness Therapy and the Parity Act

Shook Partner Tom Sullivan and Associate Cat Johns have published “Lessons About the Parity Act from Wilderness Therapy Cases” in the Journal of Health & Life Sciences Law. The article discusses how the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act applies to wilderness therapy, a form of therapy also known as outdoor behavioral therapy that involves expeditions into the wilderness to address behavioral and mental health issues. “Traditionally, insurance companies have recognized only established mental health treatments delivered through in-patient hospitalization and outpatient therapy, and wilderness therapy treatment is typically not covered under the language of many plans,” Sullivan and Johns explain.

The journal article analyzes case law under the Parity Act and concludes with observations for insurers. “As wilderness therapy continues to emerge as a potential treatment modality for mental health issues, insurers should be mindful of the language used in their plans and the risk for claims based on alleged violations of the Parity Act,” they note. “Class action lawyers may likely try to exploit plan language to allege Parity Act violations, so health insurers should remain vigilant about monitoring how such plan language is treated by the courts.”