Rhode Island Representative Teresa A. Tanzi has introduced a bill aimed at increasing the rate that insurance companies pay for outpatient mental health services as the state’s mental health system struggles to meet growing demand.
Tanzi, a Democrat from District 34, which covers South Kingstown and Narragansett, said the state simply does not have enough mental health providers to serve the community’s needs. Under existing state and federal law, insurance companies must provide the same level of benefits for mental health treatment as they do for medical and surgical care. However, advocates say that insurance companies are failing to follow these laws, resulting in a shortage of mental health providers.
The bill would require insurance companies to increase the rates paid to in-network outpatient behavioral health providers by at least 5% plus inflationary adjustments on January 1, 2024. Additionally, it would mandate that insurance companies complete an annual report outlining how they reimburse for mental health services. Advocates believe that this would help ensure that insurance companies comply with the law and enable outpatient providers to hire more staff and provide more services.
“Insurance companies are required by law to treat mental health providers just like every other provider but have not been fulfilling this obligation,” Tanzi said. “If we want more mental health providers, we need to ensure they’re paid fairly. Health insurance companies are making record profits. They can afford to comply with this law so our loved ones can access the mental health services they need.”
Laurie-Marie Pisciotta, Executive Director at the Mental Health Association of Rhode Island, said that insurance companies are not reimbursing providers enough, resulting in a shortage of mental health professionals. Pisciotta added that when people struggling with mental health issues get the treatment they need, they can live healthier lives, thrive at work, and contribute to the economy.
“We’re grateful to Representative Tanzi for working so hard for our community and hopeful that together we can solve the mental health crisis in our state,” Pisciotta said.
Read more about the legislation here.