Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo, has been the champion of mental health in Texas, and by filing HB 10 last month, he put action behind his words.
Federal laws already help, but Price’s legislation would strengthen state mental health parity laws.
If passed, HB 10 would help ease worries about the looming Affordable Care Act repeal and begin a smart strategy to fix the state’s antiquated mental healthcare system.
The bill also includes designating an ombudsman to oversee access to behavioral healthcare.
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Achieving mental health parity, in which mental health insurance benefits are no less restrictive than general medical benefits, has been a 30-year journey — and we’re not there yet.
Although federal mandates help equalize quantitative things like co-pays and number of visits under insurance coverage, many plans fall short in quality.
Outdated insurance plans, long wait times and/or lack of practitioners are some of the signs that parity is just an illusion for some.
Many mental health specialists don’t take insurance, leaving patients to navigate a limited network of overwhelmed physicians.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness even said as much in a report: “Despite the federal parity law, the promise of parity remains elusive.”
Price’s House Select Committee on Mental Health spent months hearing testimony about the illusion of parity and other mental health issues plaguing the state.
The committee concluded that access to service, early intervention and assessment, and workforce challenges are some areas that need “immediate and ongoing attention; but, improvement in these areas is absolutely achievable.”
And both the House and Senate want to put some serious money into reforming the system.
Achieving parity would pave the way.
This week, the Public Health Committee, where HB 10 is currently pending, heard more people commend Price’s bill.
True parity in insurance coverage is sorely needed for many Texans suffering from mental health or substance use issues.
Solidifying a stronger parity policy is the right first step to tackle the larger problem.