New bill introduced to increase insurance reimbursements to mental health providers

LEGISLATION INTRODUCED by state lawmakers would increase insurance reimbursements for mental health providers. Pictured is the R.I. Statehouse. / PBN FILE PHOTO/CASSIUS SHUMAN

PROVIDENCE – A new bill introduced by a state lawmaker would increase the rate that insurance companies pay for outpatient mental health services.

Under current state and federal law, insurance companies should provide the same level of benefits for mental health treatment, medical care and surgical care. But many argue that’s not the case.

“We simply don’t have enough providers to meet the mental health needs of our community,” said Rep. Teresa A. Tanzi, D-South Kingstown, sponsor of the bill. “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.”

Laurie-Marie Pisciotta, executive director at the Mental Health Association of Rhode Island, said many insurance companies do not follow the parity laws and this has led to staff shortages in the mental health field.

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“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,” Pisciotta said.

The bill introduced by Tanzi would increase the rates paid to in-network outpatient behavioral health providers by at least 5% plus inflationary adjustments beginning on Jan. 1, 2024, and would require insurance companies to complete annual reports showing their reimbursements for mental health providers.

“Health insurance companies are making record profits,” Tanzi said. “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.”

Claudia Chiappa is a PBN staff writer. You may contact her at Chiappa@PBN.com.

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