Make the Insurance Companies Pay

Parity in reimbursement for those with mental illness seemed in reach with passage of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008.  Advocates built on that success by ensuring that the Affordable Care Act of 2010 mandated conformity with that earlier law.

But, many people have found that access to treatment is no easier than it was before those reforms. The American Psychiatric Association, for example, charged that “it is well documented that most health care directories of psychiatrists purportedly available to treat plan members are woefully inaccurate and create ‘phantom networks.'”A Maryland study found that less than 40 percent of the psychiatrists listed in plan directories were actually accepting that plan’s insurance.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found two major problems: financial disparities such as different co-pays or deductibles for mental and physical health services and more stringent requirements for “prior authorizations” from insurers for those services. Obscure and confusing interpretations of “medical necessity” have also enabled insurers to deny coverage.

Congressperson Joseph Kennedy III introduced the Behavioral Health Coverage Transparency Act of 2015 (HR4276) to address these problems.  The act would require insurance companies to disclose information to federal regulators about rates and reasons for denials for mental health claims versus medical/surgical denials.  Federal agencies could perform random audits of plans and consumers could submit complaints to a central online clearinghouse.  Contact Congressperson Mark Pocan to urge his support.


How are You Going to Pay for It?

Push for better mental health services long enough and you will hear that question.

This blog will help explain ways in which the money we have for mental health services could bring about greater returns and explore how to increase those resources.  I will focus on the impact on Dane County residents of decisions made at all levels of government and will include reports of on-the-ground efforts by local advocates to help bring about reform in mental health services.

I know the mental health system at personal and professional levels.  My sister was first hospitalized with a diagnosis of schizophrenia when she was 14.  She is 74, so I have first-hand knowledge of improvements in care and the continuing failures of the system.  I was a reporter for Psychiatric News, the bi-weekly publication of the American Psychiatric Association, specializing in health care economics and community psychiatry. Katie L Mulligan

NOTE:   A disproportionate number of people in the criminal justice system have a mental illness.   People advocating for family members and others with a mental illness are seeing that intersection and urging criminal justice reform.  It is also clear that taxpayer dollars are being wasted because of the current jail and prison systems.  I will be adding news about criminal justice reform to this blog.