Testimony in Support of H.2214 and S.624

The Mass. Medical Society wishes to be recorded in support of H.2214, filed by Rep. Thomas Golden and S.624, legislation filed by Senator Jennifer Flanagan.  These similar bills would ensure parity in the provision of MassHealth behavioral health services.   

Specifically, H.2214 would amend the MassHealth statutes to require group health insurance policies providing coverage for hospital or medical expenses to provide coverage for expenses arising from treatment for chemical dependency, alcoholism, and mental or nervous conditions at the same level as for other medical conditions. The coverage may not be made subject to treatment limitations, limits on total payments for treatment, limits on duration of treatment, or financial requirements, unless similar limitations or requirements are imposed on coverage of other medical conditions.

S.624 would require MassHealth to ensure that all contracted health insurers, health plans, health maintenance organizations and behavioral health management firms and third party administrators provide comparable access to behavioral health services, benefits and medications in providing medical assistance to recipients.  

The Mass. Medical Society’s policy promotes parity in health insurance coverage, such that health conditions related to mental health and/or substance abuse ought to be covered equivalently with all other forms of illness. Our policy states, “Review and authorization processes [for mental health conditions] should be no different than those for physical illness.” Furthermore, “Insurance company administration should be accessible to providers and patients to the same degree for medical and mental health services.”

Parity is required under federal law through the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA), signed into law in 2008.  In Massachusetts, parity is statutorily governed by Chapter 80 of the Acts 2000 and Chapter 256 of the Acts of 2008.  These laws apply to fully insured group health plans, non-group health plans, and the Group Insurance Commission (GIC).  These laws DO NOT apply to MassHealth.  The passage of these bills would fill that gap, and would thereby rectify the present state of inequity in insurance coverage. 

The MMS feels strongly that all patients – regardless of source of health insurance coverage - requiring mental health and/or substance abuse evaluations, treatment, or emergency evaluations should not suffer greater impediments to the coverage of their medically necessary services than do patients with broken limbs, diabetes, hypertension, or any other medical need.  

The MMS supports this legislation and looks forward to its quick advancement as a matter of fundamental fairness and consistency with state and national mental health and substance use parity initiatives.

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