Chairman Buoniconti, Chairman Koutoujian, and members of the Committee:
I would like to thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony before the Committee. I am writing in strong support of H. 937, an Act Relative to Insurance Coverage for Mental Health. This bill, if enacted, would allow any willing licensed mental health professional to provide treatment to the insured and not be limited to that individual’s participation as a network credentialed provider.
Citizens of the Commonwealth with chronic mental illnesses still languish waiting for community based services, wander our streets homeless, fill up emergency rooms when preventive treatment should have been provided, and needlessly end up in the criminal justice system. Approximately, 23 percent of adults will suffer from a clinically diagnosable mental illness in a given year, but less than half of them will suffer symptoms severe enough to disrupt their daily functioning. Yet many cannot access needed mental health treatment because providers in their area may not be part of an insurance panel or those providers who are on the panel do not provide the specialized services sought.
Without treatment, the consequences of mental illness for the individual and society are staggering: unnecessary disability, unemployment, substance abuse, homelessness, inappropriate incarceration, suicide and wasted lives. The economic cost of untreated mental illness is more than 100 billion dollars each year in the United States. Approximately 9 percent to 13 percent of children under the age of 18 experience serious emotional disturbance with substantial functional impairment.
Currently, 26 states have Any Willing Provider laws in place. In a unanimous decision passed down by the Supreme Court on April 2, 2003, in the KentuckyAssociation of Health Plans v. Miller case, the Court ruled that health plans must open their panels to any and all qualifiedclinicians when mandated to do so by state "any willing provider"laws.
Numerous managed care networks effectively limit mental health care for many residents by not covering the services of established clinicians for patients new to the insurance network. By passing this legislation, the Commonwealth would reaffirm the right of health care consumers to receive treatment from practitioners of their choice as long as they are licensed and certified by the state of Massachusetts. Over the long term, patients, who have been forced to pay out of pocket expenses to continue to receive care from the same clinician after they switched insurers, will benefit from this legislation.
Thank you for your consideration of this most important matter. I strongly encourage the Committee to adopt a favorable report for H. 937 as expeditiously as possible.