Important Mental Health Bills Would Assure Access to Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Services

Monica Villarreal, CPPP staff, Hogg Mental Health Policy Fellow

Texans in need of mental health and substance use disorder (MH/SUD) care too often experience barriers to assistance because insurance companies fail to comply with mental health parity laws. Mental health parity means that insurance benefits for mental health and substance use disorder (MH/SUD) care are equal to coverage for physical health care. For example, if an insurance plan offers unlimited doctor visits for a condition like diabetes, it must also offer unlimited visits for a mental health condition such as depression or schizophrenia.

On Tuesday, House Public Health Committee Chairman “Four” Price filed HB 10, a comprehensive bill that aims to address the problem and ensure more insured Texans have equal access to both physical health care and MH/SUD care. Senator Judith Zaffirini filed SB 860, the companion bill.

The issue of mental health parity was highlighted as a priority for Texas in the interim report of the House Select Committee on Mental Health.

CPPP is grateful to Chairman Price and Senator Zaffirini for their work to ensure more insured Texans have equal access to needed health care.

The bills take a holistic approach to the problem of mental health parity violations, calling for the following:

  1. Expand authority for the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) to regulate and enforce the requirements of the federal parity law and regulations;
  2. Improve assistance to Texans who encounter obstacles when trying to access MH/SUD services, including possible mental health parity violations;
  3. Make sure various parties are talking to each other about mental health parity and cross-agency collaboration using a stakeholder workgroup; and
  4. Survey health plans to evaluate their compliance with parity protections.

We look forward to continuing to support and work with members of the Legislature to help Texans receive needed MH/SUD care.

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