Practical ramifications of Georgia’s new mental health law – InsuranceNewsNet

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With rare unanimous votes in House Georgia and Georgia SenateGeorgia Bill 1013, the Mental Health Parity Act, was signed into law by the Governor Brian Kemp on April 4.

The passage of the bill is a positive step in efforts to stem the advance of what most observers would rightly characterize as the widespread mental health epidemic that is sweeping across our country and which, by extension , has a negative impact on the lives of millions of Georgians.

For too long, mental health care has been somewhat sidelined by many in the health care sectors and insurance providers. While infrastructure, investment and innovation have largely accelerated for “mainstream medicine”, mental health care has largely received only 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 healthcare as a priority years ago, strategically invested in improving resources and now have the ability to point to empirical data validating that their investments in mental health resources have resulted in observable positive mental health outcomes for patients.

Fortunately, the pioneering work of leading health systems, mental health care providers and mental health advocates has, to some extent, reversed the trend. Mental health care is now more rightly prioritized (and de-stigmatized) and as this continues to happen, significant positive changes in provider infrastructure, insurance funding and patient outcomes patients could probably follow.

The Mental Health Parity Act of Georgia states, among other things, that “any health insurer who provides coverage for mental health or substance use disorders under a health care plan must provide coverage for treatment of mental or substance use disorders in accordance with the Mental Health Parity and Substance Abuse Equity Act of 2008.”

For context, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act is a federal law that required most health plans to ensure that if they offered mental health coverage under their policies, the benefits of their coverage for mental health care needed to be, at a minimum, at par with levels of coverage for non-mental health needs. For example, if a health insurance policy includes access to unlimited visits to a primary care physician for “physical health care,” the policy could not impose a visit limit for provider visits. mental health care.

Most employers who sponsor group health plans will find that their policies already comply with the MHPAEA and therefore the majority of group health plans will already find themselves compliant with the Georgia Mental Health Parity Act. However, because the MHPAEA did not apply to a subset of health insurance plans, including some self-funded small group plans, grandfathered large group plans, etc., the Health Insurance Act parity in mental health imposes a general requirement of parity of coverage at all levels. It is important to note that the Mental Health Parity Act will not apply to employee benefit plans located in another state; however, all health insurers with plans located in the state of georgia will now be forced to make the necessary adjustments to their policy language to ensure compliance.

In practice, now that coverage parity is mandatory as noted above, the next priority will need to be to increase the number of mental health care providers, strengthen provider networks so that insured people find that their providers are “networked” and to continue to 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 coverage parity by also including other key provisions which, among other things, will allocate funds and incentives to try to increase the number of psychiatric practitioners in the state, create a behavioral health care workforce database, establish a grant program to assist outpatient treatment programs, improve transparency, reauthorize the Behavioral Health and Innovation Commission and more.

There is no doubt that solving the mental health crisis will take more than just one piece of legislation. However, through collaboration and all-party focus on this key issue facing state of georgia, our legislators are to be commended for their efforts. And we all look forward with hope that mental and behavioral health resources will continue to grow and, as a result, patient outcomes will continue to improve.

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