Washington study seeks solutions to mental health parity, access in health insurance

A recent national report highlighted and confirmed the current state of access to mental-health services in the United States: It’s not great.

Every state, including Washington, needs to make vast improvements to ensure access to mental-health care is on par with medical services, according to the new report. Parity has been the law of the land since 2008.

The national report, financed by the non-profit Bowman Family Foundation and produced by Seattle-based Milliman, Inc., notes conditions for parity among medical and mental-health services have worsened since the first report two years ago. The studies examined claims data in all 50 states for hundreds of health insurance plans.

Costs and outcomes of mental health and substance use disorders in the U.S. — Kaiser Family Foundation

The latest report is no surprise to Commissioner Mike Kreidler. He recognized the disparity long ago. It’s one of the key reasons his office sought and was awarded a $284,000 federal grant through the Affordable Care Act in 2018. The study — which requires reporting by commercial health insurers — is reviewing access to services for mental health and substance use disorders in Washington. This includes all state-regulated plans that Kreidler oversees.

“We recognize the challenges before us,” Kreidler says. “The latest Milliman report confirms what we believed was occurring. All of us involved in this are taking an intensive look at current data to determine where we need to focus our future efforts to help consumers.”

Kreidler’s office has been working with a 25-member advisory committee made up of behavioral health experts, consumer advocates and health insurers. The study is halfway complete.

The first phase of the study involved requiring health insurers in Washington to report on their current practices for providing access to services. This will help identify barriers that consumers are encountering. Kreidler’s office is working with the University of Washington’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavorial Sciences to review the preliminary results.

The second phase will be a detailed analysis of claims data based on the prior reporting from health insurers.

The goal is to determine whether state-regulated health insurers are appropriately offering comprehensive and affordable access to services and treatment. The final analysis will identify the causes of problems and propose solutions for improvements. This will go to the Legislature by fall of 2020.

Commissioner’s Eye on Insurance

The Washington state Office of the Insurance Commissioner protects insurance consumers and oversees the insurance industry.

WA State Office of the Insurance Commissioner

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Washington state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler regulates the insurance industry and protects insurance consumers.

Commissioner’s Eye on Insurance

The Washington state Office of the Insurance Commissioner protects insurance consumers and oversees the insurance industry.

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