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State Senator

Ted Kennedy, Jr.

Representing Branford, Durham, Guilford, Killingworth, Madison & North Branford

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Legislators, Advocates Push for Passage of Mental Health Parity Bill This Session

Legislators and mental health advocates gathered in the Legislative Office Building today to push for the passage this session of Senate Bill 384, a mental health parity bill that seeks to ultimately enlarge the networks of mental health providers that Connecticut insurance companies offer to their customers.

The bill would change the type of data that must be included in the annual “Consumer Report Card on Health Insurance Carriers in Connecticut” which helps the insurance commissioner investigate discrepancies in insurance coverage and make suggested changes. The bill also requires that screenings for mental and nervous conditions be included as part of an annual physical exam.

With less than four weeks remaining in the 2018 legislative session, legislators and advocates said the time for action is now. SB 384 passed the Insurance Committee on a unanimous and bipartisan 21-0 vote and now awaits action on the Senate calendar.

“It’s been 10 years since the passage of federal legislation mandating mental health parity in insurance coverage, yet even in in the middle of an opioid crisis, Connecticut patients still have trouble accessing mental health treatment. That needs to end, and Senate Bill 384 will help end that. We should pass this bill as soon as possible,” said state Senator Ted Kennedy, Jr. (D-Branford), a longtime mental health advocate and one of the many bipartisan co-sponsors of SB 384. “True mental health parity has remained elusive, in part because of the miniscule size of the mental health provider networks that so many insurance companies offer Connecticut customers. The plans don’t have enough providers to meet policyholder needs. The impact of that is enormously destructive, so this should be the year we implement real mental health parity in Connecticut.”

“I truly believed that after we passed the Gun Violence, Mental Health and School Safety law, it would be the start of better mental healthcare services and coverage. I believed mental illness would be treated exactly the same as any physical illness,” said state Representative Brenda Kupchick (R-Fairfield), one of the main proponents of SB 384. “I’ve listened and learned from members of the NAMI community regularly since 2013, and their concerns and frustrations are the same now as they were then. Senate Bill 384 is sensible legislation that makes sure we are taking care of those people who are struggling with mental health issues as well as their families. It should pass this year.”

“Despite progress, it’s clear that a disparity between physical and behavioral health still exists in Connecticut, and that far too many people still cannot access even basic mental health treatment,” said state Representative Sean Scanlon (D-Guilford), who is co-chair of the Insurance Committee where SB 384 originated. “By passing Senate Bill 384 this year, we can get much closer to finally attaining mental health parity, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get this bill passed and to ensure that everyone in Connecticut can get the help they deserve.”

“We are thrilled to be able to support this legislation; it is absolutely needed in Connecticut,” said Kate Mattias, Executive Director for NAMI Connecticut. “Too often, our members and others tell us of the challenges they face accessing care for themselves or for their family members, because there are too few providers. For some, having to going ‘out of network’ is cost-prohibitive. That has to change for the promise of parity to become a reality in Connecticut.”

“The laws Connecticut currently has on the books do not allow legislators, consumers, advocates and even providers to have a clear picture of what the reality is for individuals to receive treatment, and how—or if—that happens consistently and effectively,” said Luis B. Perez, the President and CEO of Mental Health Connecticut, Inc. “The future of care is a unified, whole-health approach. The only way we will get there is to ensure equal access and delivery of services, no matter the type of health concern.”

One the driving forces behind SB 384 is a recent report by the independent consulting firm Milliman, which found that the overwhelming number of out-of-network mental health providers in Connecticut means that Connecticut residents are much more likely to face high out-of-pocket costs when seeking mental health treatment, thereby making mental health treatment unaffordable even for those with private insurance coverage.

Using three years of insurance claims data for 42 million Americans in all 50 states, Milliman found that Connecticut residents are much more likely to depend on expensive, out-of-network mental health treatment rather than having access to a robust network of less-expensive, in-network providers:

  • Office Visits: WORST IN THE NATION. For Connecticut policyholders seeking mental health services in an outpatient facility, 34 percent of the appointments were with out-of-network providers, compared to just 3 percent for medical/surgical visits, the worst discrepancy of any state in the nation.
  • Inpatient Facility: 2ND-WORST IN THE NATION. For Connecticut policyholders seeking inpatient mental health and addiction services, 27 percent of the claims were with out-of-network providers, compared with less than 2 percent of all medical/surgical claims.
  • Outpatient Facility: 7TH-WORST IN THE NATION. 34 percent of outpatient facility mental health visits were with out-of-network providers, compared with just 3 percent of primary care medical/surgical visits.
  • Differential doctor payments: Connecticut health insurance companies pay psychiatrists and other mental health providers 40 percent less than what they pay primary care doctors, even for the exact same types of visits using the same billing codes.

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