STATE HOUSE – With the state’s mental health system buckling under growing demand, Rep. Teresa A. Tanzi has introduced legislation to increase the rate insurance companies pay for outpatient mental health services.
“We simply don’t have enough providers to meet the mental health needs of our community,” said Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett). “Insurance companies are required by law to treat mental health providers just like every other provider but have not been fulfilling this obligation. If we want more mental health providers, we need to ensure they’re paid fairly.”
Under existing state and federal law, insurance companies must provide the same level of benefits for mental health treatment, including for substance use disorders, as they do for medical and surgical care. But advocates say that is not happening.
“We all know people who have mental health struggles. But the unfortunate reality is that many insurance companies don’t follow federal and state mental health parity laws,” said Laurie-Marie Pisciotta, Executive Director at the Mental Health Association of Rhode Island. “The insurance companies don’t reimburse providers enough, and so mental health professionals, who often need a master’s degree or doctorate, don’t get paid enough. That’s led to a shortage of providers to meet the growing need for help in our communities.”
The bill (2023 H-5657) would would require insurance companies to increase the rates paid to in-network outpatient behavioral health providers by at least 5% plus inflationary adjustments on January 1, 2024. It would also require insurance companies to complete an annual report outlining how they reimburse for mental health services. That, advocates say, would ensure insurance companies comply with the law and enable outpatient providers to hire more staff and provide more services.
“Health insurance companies are making record profits,” said Representative Tanzi. “They can afford to comply with this law so our loved ones can access the mental health services they need.”
“We truly believe this would benefit everyone,” Pisciotta said. “When people struggling with mental health issues get the treatment they need, they can live healthier lives, thrive at work and contribute to the economy. We’re grateful to Representative Tanzi for working so hard for our community and hopeful that together we can solve the mental health crisis in our state.”