Rhode Island legislators introduce legislation to enhance mental health, substance abuse coverage

Breaking Barriers: Rhode Island Lawmakers Propose Bill to Improve Mental and Substance Abuse Treatment Coverage by Health Insurance

In Rhode Island, two lawmakers have proposed new legislation aimed at improving mental and substance abuse treatment coverage by health insurance. The bill aims to require insurers to cover chronic or pervasive mental and substance use disorders to the same extent as they would cover acute or short-term treatment.

One of the significant issues addressed in the proposed law is the requirement for prior authorization before seeking mental or substance abuse disorder treatment. This administrative process has been cited by behavioral health advocates as a barrier to people receiving the care they need.

According to Rep. Teresa Tanzi, D-South Kingstown, there is a disparity in how insurers treat chronic health issues compared to acute health issues. For example, someone recovering from a diabetic coma would receive continued care for diabetes, while someone hospitalized for an overdose might be denied coverage for substance dependency treatment. Tanzi emphasizes that both cases are critical health issues that require proper care.

The legislation, sponsored by Tanzi and Sen. Linda Ujifusa, D-Portsmouth, has the support of the Mental Health Association of Rhode Island and other behavioral health care providers. Similar laws have been passed in four other states.

Sen. Ujifusa highlights the growing mental health and substance abuse issues that have arisen since the COVID-19 pandemic, affecting people of all ages and demographics. She notes that addressing these issues promptly is crucial to avoid more severe and costly problems in the future.

In summary, two Rhode Island lawmakers have proposed new legislation aimed at improving mental and substance abuse treatment coverage by health insurance. The bill seeks to ensure that chronic or pervasive mental and substance use disorders are covered to the same extent as acute or short-term treatment while prohibiting insurers from requiring prior authorization before seeking such treatments.

The bill’s sponsors argue that there is a disparity in how insurers treat chronic health issues compared to acute health issues, citing examples such as diabetes and substance dependency treatment.

The legislation has garnered support from behavioral health advocates and similar laws have been passed in four other states.

With growing mental health and substance abuse issues arising since the COVID-19 pandemic, addressing these problems promptly is essential to prevent more severe and costly problems in the future.

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