Even before the gunman walked into Sandy Hook School on Dec. 14 and killed 20 children and six educators, lawmakers and their staffers were working on improving access to mental health and behavioral health services. The horrific events in Newtown just acted as a catalyst to bring advocates and the industry together to resolve the problem.
Several public hearings on the issue demonstrated what advocates already knew — Connecticut residents still face significant barriers to treatment for mental health and substance use disorders. Despite federal and state mental health parity laws, it’s an area of the health care system where having private insurance doesn’t necessarily mean access to services.
The bill the General Assembly will debate today would require mental health and substance abuse services to be considered “urgent care” and also shortens the review time for service requests from 72 hours to 24 hours.
The legislation also requires:
—insurance companies to inform consumers that they have the right to appeal a denial of care;
—the Insurance Department to evaluate and report on compliance with mental health parity laws, and;
—the health professional reviewing an insurance claim to have similar qualifications to the medical professional prescribing it.
State Healthcare Advocate Victoria Veltri called the proposal a “very strong and bold piece of legislation.”
The bill includes many more protections for consumers than ever existed before in the state, she said.