House approves mental health parity law

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(Host) The House has approved legislation that supporters say strengthens Vermont’s mental health parity law.

The state’s original parity law passed ten years ago. It requires health insurance companies to provide comparable coverage for physical and mental health conditions.

Lincoln Representative Michael Fisher says some consumers are having a hard time getting access to mental health care.

He says that’s because some health insurance companies have turned the administration of these services over to out-of-state managed care companies.

(Fisher) “I don’t believe that the insurers are out there trying to figure out how to actively deny treatment. I don’t believe that that’s their goal. But I do believe that they set up administrative structures that actively interfere with a consumer’s ability to get necessary treatment so that they can continue to function."

(Host) The legislation gives the state Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration specific authority to oversee how Vermont health insurance companies comply with the parity law.

Ken Libertoff is the executive director of the Vermont Association of Mental Health. He says the bill will shine a spotlight on the practices of managed care companies.

(Libertoff) "We would predict that this will change the environment. That will, in fact, help us realize the goals of parity and we’ll see a much better and improved managed care system for behavioral health care services in Vermont as a result."

(Host) A similar bill passed the Senate earlier this year.

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