Bipartisan Mental Health Bill Includes Provider Licensing Reforms
A bipartisan group of House lawmakers this week unveiled a bill expanding access to mental and behavioral healthcare services.
According to a recent report published by the Health Resources and Services Administration, an estimated 122 million Americans, or 37% of the population, lived in 5,833 mental health professional shortage areas as of Mar. 31, 2021.
The report also shows Connecticut trails neighboring states in providing adequate access to behavioral and mental health services.
Roughly 32% of Connecticut residents live in a mental health professional shortage area, compared to 0.45% in New Jersey, 8.99% in Delaware, 3.96% in Massachusetts, and 21.22% in New York.
HB 5001 makes an aggressive investment in expanding the mental and behavioral health provider workforce to help close this gap.
It tasks the Department of Public Health to implement a plan to establish license reciprocity for mental and behavioral healthcare providers.
DPH must also grant conditional and temporary licenses for providers.
For example, DPH may waive the masters-level examination requirement for social workers if they failed the exam previously, as long as they they continue to be supervised by a licensed social worker and retake the exam within six months.
The bill also expands DPH’s authority to issue temporary permits to social workers who hold master’s degrees but have not yet taken the licensing examination from 180 calendar days to one year.
In addition to the licensing reforms, the bill also establishes financial assistance for providers to achieve licensure.
For example, DPH must need-based scholarships for persons applying for licensure that serve the mental and behavioral health needs of children in the state.
Last year, lawmakers extended telehealth provisions in Gov, ned Lamont’s Executive Order No. 7G that relaxed certain state laws regulating telehealth services and expanded access to more patients to June 30, 2023.
HB 5001 extends these provisions to June 30, 2024. Extended services in the telehealth provisions include:
- Expanding the type of providers and licensed professions to provide telehealth services to dentists, behavioral analysts, music therapists, art therapists, physician assistants, physical therapist assistants, and occupational therapy assistants;
- Permitting the use of telehealth services by audio-only without requiring video; and
- Permitting licensed providers in other states to provide telehealth services to Connecticut residents under any relevant order issued by DPH
Health Benefit Mandates
Lawmakers also inserted language into the bill requiring businesses providing group coverage to cover three new health benefits.
Over the years, CBIA has warned lawmakers that mandates drive up costs as with each new requirement, insurers must expand coverage to include additional services or devices.
This in turn increases the cost of health insurance premiums, and those increases are passed directly onto enrollees.
Each year, Connecticut residents pay an additional $2,085.48 in premium costs because of the 68 health benefit mandates that are codified in our state’s statutes.
HB 5001 add sto this cost by imposing mandated coverage for intensive, evidence-based services, including home-based services, for adolescents, and collaborative care for behavioral healthcare.
CBIA broadly opposes any healthcare mandate without a complete cost-benefit analysis being conducted prior to passage.
Health benefit mandates pose an enormous cost to all Connecticut residents.
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