Legislative Alert: Rhode Island Insurance Coverage for Mental Illness and Substance Abuse

August 2, 2018

On July 2, 2018, Governor Gina Raimondo signed S 2540. Introduced in March by five Democrat senators, "Insurance Coverage for Mental Illness and Substance Abuse" it amended Section 2738.2-1 of the general laws. The law, which will take effect on January 1, 2019, includes behavioral health counseling visits and medication maintenance visits for patient cost-sharing requirements under the provisions of a health plan.

The legislation, according to a press release on Senator James Seveney's website, is geared toward achieving parity for mental health coverage for Rhode Island residents. "Copays are usually the lowest on preventive health visits to encourage patients to maintain good health and avoid expensive complications. This new law requires that insurers apply the same concept to mental health coverage," Seveney said in the release. "Here in Rhode Island, we were early adopters of mental health parity, the idea that mental health is as important as general health. With the adoption of this law, we're strengthening parity by saying insurers must not set financial disincentives that might stop people from getting the regular mental health maintenance they need."

The bill had passed the Senate after being amended once. It was supported by the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner, Blue Cross Blue Shield of R.I., Neighborhood Health Plan of R.I. the Mental Health Association of Rhode Island and other advocacy organizations.

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