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

Rhode Island Lawmakers Propose Equal Access to Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment in New Legislation

A proposed new legislation in Rhode Island aims to address the issue of inadequate mental and substance abuse treatment coverage by health insurance. Two lawmakers, Rep. Teresa Tanzi and Sen. Linda Ujifusa, have introduced a bill that would 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.

The proposed law would also prohibit insurers from requiring patients to obtain a “prior authorization” before seeking mental or substance abuse disorder treatment. This administrative process is often cited as a barrier to people receiving the care they need by behavioral health advocates.

According to Rep. Tanzi, there is a disparity in how insurers treat chronic health issues compared to acute health issues. For example, someone who has woken up from a diabetic coma will receive continued care for diabetes, while someone who has been hospitalized for an overdose may 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 Ujifusa, 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 addressing the issue of inadequate mental and substance abuse treatment coverage by health insurance. The proposed law aims to ensure that chronic or pervasive mental and substance use disorders are covered at the same level as acute or short-term treatment while prohibiting prior authorization requirements for patients seeking these treatments.

The bill also acknowledges the growing mental health and substance abuse issues that have arisen since the COVID-19 pandemic, with Sen. Ujifusa emphasizing their severity if not addressed promptly.

The Mental Health Association of Rhode Island supports this bill along with other behavioral healthcare providers, highlighting its importance in ensuring adequate care for those struggling with these conditions.

Similar laws have already been passed in four other states, making it clear that this issue needs urgent attention at both state and national levels.

Overall, this proposed legislation is vital in ensuring equal access to quality healthcare for individuals struggling with mental illnesses or addiction disorders, regardless of whether their condition is acute or chronic.

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