I lead a safety net health plan in Texas, Community Health Choice, and I’m honored to give testimony today before the Texas House Select Committee on Mental Health about why Texas needs mental health parity. When our access and coverage opportunities for mental health needs are on par with, or equal to, physical health coverage, Texans reap enormous benefits.
- As a safety net health plan, primarily focused on low income populations, we face several challenges related to mental health services.
- Lack of psychiatrists, especially in rural areas.
- Eligibility challenges, for example, loss of eligibility for women 60 days after delivery (post-partum depression), inability to be certified for SSI, coordination with jail health, and others.
- Creation of value based payment system integrating behavioral and physical health.
- Lack of sustainable funding source for DSRIP projects involving mental health for those currently uninsured.
Community and our parent organization, Harris Health, believe the single most important thing the legislature could do to improve the mental health of Texans is to ensure that virtually all residents have access to insurance coverage with mental health benefits in parity with other health benefits. Such a coverage expansion could be included under the renewal of our current 1115 transformation waiver. Coverage would support the following improvements:
- Coverage keeps Texans with a mental health condition in the work force. A disproportionate number of people with mental health conditions are uninsured, as it is difficult to maintain employment with severe mental illness that is only treated episodically.
- Coverage increases the number of mental health providers in the state. Across the 50 states, there is a direct correlation between high levels of uninsured and fewer providers per capita. If more people are covered, it is easier to attract mental health providers. Pay them and they will come.
- Coverage means care coordination and integration with other medical conditions is much better in a managed care (coverage) system. The current fragmented system is inefficient and difficult to navigate.
- Coverage allows managed care plans are able to create and pay for non-traditional, home and community, services. In states with coverage expansion, MCO coordination with homeless programs, jail diversion programs, and other services has made significant improvements in access and outcome while lowering costs.
- Coverage provides additional federal funds available for coverage would allow a reduction or reallocation in state and local tax funding, and still increase overall mental health funding.
Community Health Choice and other managed care plans are able and ready to be partners to improve mental health funding, services and care coordination for all Texans.
My full submitted testimony can be downloaded below along with a powerpoint presentation and reference materials.