AG’s Office Highlights Behavioral Healthcare Disparity in Report to Health Policy Commission
Report Calls Attention to a Harmfully Complex Bureaucracy in Behavioral Healthcare
BOSTON – Citing the complex way that behavioral health benefits are administered and paid for, Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office urged a continued focus on advancing real mental health parity in a report delivered to the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission (HPC) today.
“We seek to shed light on a complex reimbursement system that includes multiple players, contracts, and payment levels,” AG Coakley said in a letter to the HPC. “We show that the administration and management of behavioral health benefits is often fragmented, carved out, and managed separately from physical health benefits. This may leave some of our most vulnerable patients to navigate a more complex system, potentially with additional hurdles to obtaining care.”
The letter emphasizes that although behavioral health may reflect a small portion of overall spending, the cost for individuals with a combination of behavioral health and medical conditions is high.
“How we invest our behavioral health dollars has enormous potential for impacting overall health care spending,” AG Coakley wrote in the letter. “Real mental health parity is not only a matter of good health care policy but also a matter of social justice. It will require a sustained and broad-based commitment well beyond today’s hearing, as both I and the HPC understand well.”
According to the report file size 1MB, which also covered the impact of tiered network plans on the state’s healthcare market, many insurance companies outsource their behavioral healthcare coverage to third party companies depending on the type of plan the consumer carries.
The initial findings of the report include:
- an inconsistent definition of behavioral health among insurers and providers;
- an inconsistent way of reporting behavioral health spending; and
- difficulty in comparing behavioral health spending across entities due to differing definitions and methodologies.
The report to the HPC was worked on by Chief of the Health Care Division and Assistant Attorney General Margret Cooke, Assistant Attorney General Courtney Aladro, Assistant Attorney General Emily Gabrault, and Legal Analysts Julie Myers and Robert Ciccia.