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Rhode Island lawmakers propose bill to improve mental health, substance abuse coverage


A new law is proposed by two Rhode Island lawmakers to address a problem they say is a result of a lack of adequate mental and substance abuse treatment coverage by health insurance.

The legislation would require insurers to cover chronic or pervasive mental and substance use disorders to the same extent as they would cover acute or short-term treatment.

It would also prohibit insurers from requiring patients to obtain a “prior authorization” before seeking mental or substance abuse disorder treatment, a common administrative process that behavioral health advocates say can prevent people from getting the care they need.

“If you wake up from a diabetic coma, your insurance will cover continuing care for your diabetes. But a person can be hospitalized for an overdose and be denied coverage for substance dependency treatment,” said Rep. Teresa Tanzi, D-South Kingstown. “Both cases are life-threatening health issues that warrant care, but they are not always treated equally by insurers.”

The proposed law is sponsored by Tanzi and Sen. Linda Ujifusa, D-Portsmouth. It is supported by the Mental Health Association of Rhode Island and other behavioral health care providers.

A similar law has been passed in four other states.

“There is no question that since COVID, mental health and substance abuse problems have been increasing among people of all ages and demographics,” Ujifusa said. “If we don’t address these problems today, we’ll face more serious and expensive problems later.”

Generative artificial intelligence (AI) assisted a What’sUpNewp journalist with the reporting included in this story.TranslateBackFinish



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