Practical Implications of New Georgia’s Mental Health Law – InsuranceNewsNet

With rare monophonic voices in the Georgian house and Georgia SenateGeorgia’s House Bill 1013, entitled the Mental Health Parity Act, was signed into law by the governor Brian Kemp on 4. April.

The passage of the bill is a positive step in efforts to stem the progress of what most observers would rightly describe as a widespread mental health epidemic that is spreading across our country and negatively impacting the lives of millions of Georgians .

For far too long, mental health care has been relegated to second-tier status by many in the healthcare and insurance industries. As infrastructure, investment and innovation for “traditional medicine” have largely accelerated, mental health care, by and large, has received little more than lip service from most health systems and health insurers.

Fortunately, there have been exceptions to this rule, as some key market leaders identified mental and behavioral health care as a priority years ago, invested strategically to improve resources, and can now point to empirical data that validates their investments in mental health resources led to observable positive outcomes for the mental health of the patients.

Fortunately, the groundbreaking work of leading health systems, mental health providers, and mental health advocates has, to some extent, turned the tide. Mental health care is now rightly being prioritized (and destigmatized), and if this continues to happen, there could likely be significant positive changes in provider infrastructure, insurance funding, and patient outcomes.

The Mental Health Parity Act of Georgia provides, inter alia, that “Any health insurer providing coverage for mental health or substance use disorders under a healthcare plan shall provide cover for treatment of mental health or substance use disorders in accordance with the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008.”

For context, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act is a federal law that, by and large, required most health plans to ensure that the benefits of their mental health coverage were accurate if they included mental health coverage in their policies , at least on a point consistent with coverage levels for non-mental health needs. For example, if a health insurance policy includes access to an unlimited number of GP visits for “physical health care,” the policy could not impose a visit limit on visits from mental health providers.

Most employers who sponsor group health insurance will find that their policies are already compliant with the MHPAEA and as a result most group health insurance will already be found to be compliant with the Mental Health Parity Act of Georgia. However, since MHPAEA did not apply to a subset of health insurance plans, including some self-funded small group plans, large group grandfathered plans, etc., the Mental Health Parity Act makes a general requirement for coverage parity. Importantly, the Mental Health Parity Act does not apply to employee benefit plans located in another state; However, all health insurance companies with tariffs in the State of Georgia will now be forced to make the necessary adjustments to their political language to ensure compliance.

In practice, now that the parity of coverage described above is mandated, the next focus must be to increase the number of mental health providers, strengthen provider networks so that insured people can find their preferred providers “in the network”, and continue to do so in Invest in innovative solutions to improve the scalability and effectiveness of mental health care.

Fortunately, the Mental Health Parity Act goes beyond simply requiring health insurance parity to include other important provisions that, among other things, provide funds and incentives to seek to increase the number of psychiatric physicians in the state and to increase behavioral health care create workforce database, establish a grant program to support outpatient treatment programs, improve transparency, reauthorize the Commission on Behavioral Health and Innovation and more.

There is no question that solving the mental health crisis will require much more than a bill. But thanks to the cooperation and focus across party lines on this core issue, the State of Georgia, our legislators are to be commended for their efforts. And we all stand in hopeful anticipation that mental and behavioral health resources will continue to grow and, as a result, patient outcomes will continue to improve.

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