Washington, D.C. – The House Ways and Means Committee today unanimously passed a package of bipartisan bills that will strengthen mental and behavioral health care services and expand access for patients. The package includes H.R. 8892, the Access to Mental Health Services Act, which was introduced by Congressman Darin LaHood (IL-18) and will heighten awareness of such services, identify gaps in coverage under private insurance, and prevent surprise medical bills for mental health. The legislation will help to ensure that Americans can get the help they need, especially in times of crisis.
“Mental and behavioral health services are critical components of our health care system, and Congress can do more to ensure patients better understand their access to these services, especially in rural communities like those in the 18th District of Illinois,” said Rep. LaHood. “This bipartisan bill will help mental and behavioral health care providers to better treat patients and increase access to mental health care services, particularly in situations of mental health crisis care, while also protecting patients from surprise medical billing. On the Ways and Means Committee, I will continue to be an advocate for our mental and behavioral health care providers and patients in central and west-central Illinois.”
Coverage for mental health crisis services under private insurance varies, and limited availability of in-network providers can restrict access for consumers. While many consumers do have access to such services, they may not know where to access them or may worry about the perceived stigma of obtaining such mental health crisis services. The landmark No Surprises Act (NSA) provides new federal consumer protections against surprise medical bills for all emergency services and certain non-emergency services. However, while the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury (Departments) have clarified that certain mental health crisis care settings fall under the NSA’s definition of emergency services and guarantee such consumer protections, others do not.
Accordingly, H.R. 8892 seeks to expand outreach efforts and identify private insurance barriers to accessing mental health crisis services:
- Heightening awareness of such services: This bill requires the Departments to conduct an outreach campaign regarding the availability of mental health crisis services under private insurance. In addition, the outreach campaign would promote the potential benefits of accessing such services and seek to address any perceived stigma in obtaining such services.
- Identifying potential coverage gaps: This bill requires the Departments to submit a report to Congress concerning private insurance coverage for mental health crisis services, any potential barriers to accessing such services, and potential issues related to unexpected surprise medical bills.