Dean Weich: Insurance Coverage for Mental Health in Maryland Still Lags
October 24, 2018
Contact: Office of Government and Public Affairs
In an op-ed in The Baltimore Sun, University of Baltimore School of Law Dean Ron Weich says that insurers in Maryland are not up to par in serving the needs of their clients with mental health issues. Writing with Ellen Weber, vice president for health initiatives at the Legal Action Center, Weich says that federal legislation passed a decade ago—the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act—has not solved this long-standing issue.
"The Parity Act, designed to end discrimination against people with mental health and substance use disorders, requires most health plans to cover services for mental health and substance use disorders at the same level as other medical services," Weich and Weber say. "This means it is illegal for health plans to impose barriers—higher deductibles, burdensome authorization requirements, limited provider networks—on people seeking treatment for addiction or mental illness that are not imposed when care is sought for other medical conditions.
Last year, the Maryland Insurance Administration (MIA) enacted tough new standards to support Marylanders seeking access to addiction treatment.
"The [MIA] established 'network adequacy' standards—minimum requirements for insurance carriers to have sufficient availability of in-network providers. If fully implemented, Marylanders should have access to in-network treatment providers when and where they need them: nearby and without excessive wait times."
But, Weich and Weber say, only one of 13 insurance carriers reported having on hand an adequate number of mental health and substance use providers to meet the standard.
They propose solutions to these gaps, including a requirement that non-compliant carriers open their networks to professionals where required, and an offering of proof that their authorization rules are no more restrictive than those of other medical services.
Read the op-ed.