Massachusetts Medical Society: Testimony in Support of an Act Relative to Mental Health Parity Implementation, and an Act to Provide Equal Access to Medication Assisted Treatment

Testimony in Support of an Act Relative to Mental Health Parity Implementation, and an Act to Provide Equal Access to Medication Assisted Treatment

The Massachusetts Medical Society wishes to be recorded in strong support of Senate bill 588 and House bill 910, An Act relative to mental health parity implementation.

Patients in Massachusetts enjoy strong protections to ensure parity between their coverage of physical and mental health care through both federal and state mental health parity laws.  The Medical Society shares growing concern that a lack of enforcement of these laws has inhibited the realization of mental health parity that many of these laws sought to achieve upon their passage. We believe Senate bill 588 is an important step forward in assuring strong mental health parity in the Commonwealth.

This bill would not amend existing mental health parity laws; rather, it would increase reporting by health insurers of information that would more easily allow for enforcement of violations of existing mental health parity laws, and it would require the Division of Insurance, the primary authority of enforcement of these laws, to comprehensively enforce these laws and report on the results.

As we move further in time past the initial passage of mental health parity legislation, many of the most obvious examples of mental health parity violation have been corrected. What remains of potential mental health parity violations is often thought to involve the nonquantitative aspects of mental health coverage that are less obvious and less easy to prove. This legislation is important as it prompts the disclosure of information that can help detect these softer, more nuanced violations—or help show that parity has been achieved.

As the entire health care system works to make strides to improve the provision of comprehensive, integrated behavioral health, it is important that we continue to ensure that mental health parity laws are enforced to their fullest potential. For these reasons, the Massachusetts Medical Society urges favorable reporting of Senate bill 588 and House bill 910.

In addition, MMS continues to strongly advocate for increased coverage and decreased barriers to medications to treat opioid use disorder. We strongly supported Chapter 258 of the Acts of 2015 to reduce prior authorizations for these medications, so we of course support S.609, An Act to provide equal access to medication assisted treatment which would ensure coverage of all three forms of medication treatment. In a public health crisis of such severity, a lack of insurance coverage should never be the barrier that prevents patients from receiving affordable access to treatment.

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