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6/8/2021 Senate OKs Miller bill to offer reimbursement parity for mental health, substance abuse providers
Rate increase aimed at increasing much-needed access to services
STATE HOUSE – The Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller to recruit more mental health and substance abuse providers by increasing reimbursement rates for their services.

The bill is aimed at making high-quality mental health and substance abuse treatment more available to Rhode Islanders.

A 2019 study found that Rhode Islanders were 428% more likely to have to go out-of-network to find a mental health provider than a primary care provider in 2019. The same study also found that mental health professionals were paid an average of 23.4% less than other specialists for similar billing codes.

The legislation (2021-S 0591A) would increase in-network reimbursement rates for behavioral health providers by at least that same amount — 23.4% — over a five-year period to provide parity between reimbursement rates for mental health providers and those for medical health providers. It would apply to individual and group health insurance as well as Medicaid plans.

“Our state pledged parity for mental health care long ago, but as long as the reimbursement rates for mental health services are lower, that parity will remain out of reach. We need more high-quality providers of mental health and substance abuse care to ensure that Rhode Islanders have access to the help they need,” said Chairman Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence). “Particularly as we emerge from the isolation of the pandemic, the need for mental health and substance abuse help far outpaces the availability. Last year there was a surge in overdose deaths. There’s a lot of desperation, and not enough help. We need more people who can provide those services, and we need rate parity to attract them.”

The bill requires a minimum increase, effective Jan. 1, 2022, of 3.2%, and a minimum increase of 4.5% each subsequent year, for a total of at least 23.4% by July 1, 2027. The bill also requires monitoring and reporting by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services of insurers’ compliance, effects on Rhode Islanders’ access to mental health and substance abuse services, and recommendations for evidence-based rate increases to be applied to behavioral health care services.

The legislation now goes to the House of Representatives, where two identical bills (2021-H 5546, 2021-H 6268) have been introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert E. Craven (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown) and Rep. Teresa A. Tanzi (D-Dist. 35, South Kingstown, Narragansett).

For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-1923