MENTAL HEALTH: HMOs Search for Ways to Implement Reforms
While mental health care advocates, politicians and patients celebrate recent HMO reforms requiring parity in mental health coverage, managed care officials are scrambling to "figure out how to comply" by the July 1, 2000, deadline, Scripps-McClatchy News Service/Contra Costa Times reports. Although "few details" have been established, health plan officials are studying several options regarding "who will provide these services, how will their quality be assured and how will HMO consumers get access to them." Some health plans, such as United Healthcare and Blue Cross of California, which already offer members "limited access to mental health services through affiliated programs," said they may "contract with behavioral health groups or other providers to handle the mandated care." One option may be to forge such agreements with already-established community mental health agencies. Kaiser Permanente will probably "hire additional staff to handle the extra services," said Dr. Dennis Cook, regional coordinating chief of psychiatry for the plan's Southern California region. He added that the HMO is still "unclear" about its role in "diagnosing and treating emotionally disturbed children," since the responsibility usually falls on schools, and is still investigating "ways to best care" for those with chronic eating disorders. Cook does not expect drastically increased costs, as most patients will probably not "require more services than are currently covered," (Griffith, 10/10).="http:> This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.