New law to provide copay parity for mental health maintenance

PORTSMOUTH, R.I. — Legislation sponsored by Sen. James A. Seveney and Rep. Grace Diaz to provide greater parity for mental health coverage has been signed into law.

The Senate approved two bills on Thursday to prevent gun violence and mass shootings, a ban on bump stocks and other rapid-fire gun modifications and “red flag” legislation that allows courts to disarm individuals who are believed by law enforcement to represent a violent threat to themselves or others.

The bill (2018-S 2540Aaa2018-H 7806A) requires that insurers treat behavioral health counseling and medication maintenance visits the same as primary health care visits when determining patient cost-sharing. The legislation is aimed at better achieving parity for mental health coverage for Rhode Islanders. The bill also directs the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner to work with insurers to enhance mental health parity and to report to the General Assembly on the impacts of the legislation.

“Counseling and medication maintenance are a type of preventive care for those who need them, and the costs of going without them can be high. But when insurance companies require higher copays for them, the cost can discourage patients from continuing their treatment, and can make it totally unaffordable. This bill is as much a statement about the importance of mental health maintenance as it is about saving patients money,” said Representative Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence).

Said Senator Seveney (D-Dist. 11, Portsmouth, Bristol, Tiverton), “Copays are usually the lowest on preventive health visits to encourage patients to maintain good health and avoid expensive complications. This new law requires that insurers apply the same concept to mental health coverage. Here in Rhode Island, we were early adopters of mental health parity, the idea that mental health is as important as general health. With the adoption of this law, we’re strengthening parity by saying insurers must not set financial disincentives that might stop people from getting the regular mental health maintenance they need.”

The legislation passed the General Assembly June 22 and was signed into law by Gov. Gina M. Raimondo July 2. It was supported by the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner,  Blue Cross Blue Shield of R.I., Neighborhood Health Plan of R.I. the Mental Health Association of Rhode Island and other advocacy organizations.

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