Breaking Barriers: Rhode Island Legislature Proposes Bill to Expand Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment Coverage

Rhode Island legislators introduce bill to enhance mental health and substance abuse insurance coverage

Rhode Island lawmakers have introduced new legislation to address the issue of inadequate mental health and substance abuse treatment coverage by health insurance. The proposed bill requires insurers to provide the same level of coverage for chronic or pervasive mental and substance use disorders as they do for acute or short-term treatment.

The legislation also prohibits insurers from imposing a “prior authorization” requirement before patients can seek treatment for mental or substance abuse disorders. This administrative process is often seen as a barrier to accessing necessary care by behavioral health advocates.

Representative Teresa Tanzi of South Kingstown highlighted the disparity in coverage between physical and mental health issues, pointing out that insurance often covers continuing care for physical conditions but may deny coverage for substance dependency treatment following an overdose. Tanzi and Senator Linda Ujifusa of Portsmouth are sponsoring the bill, with support from the Mental Health Association of Rhode Island and other behavioral health care providers.

Similar laws have been implemented in four other states, emphasizing the growing need to address the rising mental health and substance abuse challenges following the COVID-19 pandemic. Ujifusa stressed the importance of addressing these issues now to prevent more severe and costly problems in the future.

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