Bill signing signals importance of mental health in Massachusetts – InsuranceNewsNet


This is a concrete bill dealing with the structure and delivery of mental health services to Massachusetts residents, dealing primarily with insurance company issues: from provider compensation, document standardization, expense tracking, to establishing a statewide office to promote wellness mental.

While mandating insurance coverage for an annual mental health wellness screening, it establishes that in Massachusetts at least, mental health is just as important as physical health.

Signed by Governor charlie baker on August 16 in a post-legislative session ceremony, the Mental Health ABC Act: Addressing Barriers to Care (ABC) puts in place, Baker said, “the building blocks needed to achieve true parity” in mental and behavioral health services .

This is a big step towards destigmatizing mental illness and addiction.

The bill was crafted in the final hours of the 192nd legislative session by the Senate and the House last month. It came to fruition after decades of work, according to Senate President Karen A. Spilka (D-Ashland), and “countless individuals, families, advocates, providers and others who have championed the common-sense idea that mental health is just as important as physical health.” She thanked “everyone who fought for mental health care reform in Massachusetts and never gave up.”

Announcing the passage of the bill, Spilka was candid about her family’s own mental health issues.

“One moment, many years ago, I made the split-second decision to share the story of my family’s struggle with mental illness – a moment of vulnerability and honesty that became a movement, as more and more people stand up and speak out for accessible, high-quality mental health care,” Spilka said. “We all deserve access to the mental health care we need, when we need it.”

The Comprehensive Mental and Behavioral Health Reform Bill removes barriers to access in a number of ways:

For consumers: it obliges insurers to pay for annual examinations and mental and behavioral health care.

It expands behavioral health supports in the school setting. It screens and orients children entering the foster care system. It broadens the coverage of vulnerable populations: extension of parental insurance coverage to disabled adults over 26 years of age. And she creates a team Office of Health Equity improve access to and quality of culturally appropriate mental health services.

For Practitioners: It ensures that providers are compensated on the same basis as primary care physicians, and provides the tools to enforce the terms of commercial, government-contracted, and student health insurance plans.

It addresses the problem of the internment of patients in crisis in hospital emergencies while providers are looking, sometimes for weeks, for a psychiatric bed for an individual. The bill promotes the creation of a portal allowing immediate access to the availability of beds.

Removes the need for prior authorizations, especially for acute treatment and stabilization services for adults and children.

Requires all insurance companies to cover mental health services and substance use disorders and supports the collaborative care model of a team of healthcare professionals that includes the primary care physician, psychiatrist and manager patient behavioral health care. This collaborative care has proven to be effective, less expensive and less stigmatizing.

Increases access to Emergency Services Programs (ESP).

Promotes the creation of a set of medical necessity criteria for mental health care providers and insurance companies.

Creates standardized release forms that allow practitioners to exchange confidential medical information.

Mandates that the Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA) track service delivery to establish a baseline of current spending.

The bill also mandates a review of behavioral health contractors and managers, delegated in many circumstances to provide coverage for mental health services by commercial insurance companies.

“I am incredibly proud of the mental health legislation passed today which will help address the behavioral health crisis currently facing so many of our residents, and which will bring us closer to equal treatment of mental and physical health. “said the Speaker of the House. Ronald J. Mariano.


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