Massachusetts Medical Society: Massachusetts Medical Society supports mental health parity bill

Massachusetts Medical Society supports mental health parity bill

The Massachusetts Medical Society applauds our Senate leadership, Senate President Karen Spilka, Sen. Julian Cyr, Sen. Cindy Friedman, and Sen. Michael Rodrigues for putting forth legislation that reforms mental health care in the Commonwealth, strengthening existing mental health parity laws and ensuring that our patients will have access to quality, comprehensive mental health care.

The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is a basic human right. Treating mental health care differently or less than physical health undermines this principle, endangers patients, and perpetuates stigma that our entire health care system has worked tirelessly to overcome.

Despite the existence of laws requiring parity in coverage, mental health care services for too long have not been treated equitably with physical health. Giving the Department of Insurance and other state agencies expanded authority to track and report compliance with parity laws, enforce existing protections, and reduce administrative complexities associated with obtaining mental health care is a significant step toward removing barriers and improving access. Provisions to expedite evaluation and stabilization processes for minors – a particularly vulnerable population – in emergency situations are especially important.

This bill improves access by requiring coverage and eliminating restrictive prior authorization requirements for acute mental health care during a crisis – rightfully placing treatment decisions in the hands of the clinician and their patient. We are pleased with proposed measures aimed at expanding and diversifying the pool of mental health professionals and improving access to culturally competent, team-based care for all patients, including those marginalized populations impacted by the social determinants of health or geographical isolation.

Together, these thoughtful measures will help achieve meaningful progress toward our mutual goal of true parity and the recognition that behavioral health services are a critical component in caring for the whole patient.

-Maryanne C. Bombaugh, MD, MSc, MBA, FACOG, President, Massachusetts Medical Society 

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