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Proposal Gives Stronger Status to Mental Health Claims

The Assembly Health Committee on Tuesday passed SB 1169 (Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach), which aims to raise the status of mental health claims.

“There are two problems in how mental health conditions are handled,” bill author Lowenthal said. “Plans and insurers require daily prior authorizations, but they don’t do that with physical conditions. And the second thing is that they often delay payments and authorization.”

Lowenthal said he hopes to even the mental health playing field, by requiring a tracking number to be assigned to every mental health claim, and by pushing health insurers to give mental health treatment the same urgency shown to physical treatment authorizations.

“We want to make sure treatment limitations are the same limitations that apply to physical treatment,” Lowenthal said.

Maureen Higgins, representing health insurer trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans, said the new legislation would create another unnecessary layer of paperwork, something another speaker called a “paperwork blizzard.”

“What this bill does is overlay requirements on a system that already has many requirements,” Higgins said in her testimony before the committee. “It requires a tracking number, but health plans already have a claims number. If lost submissions is the problem, that’s something this bill won’t address.”

In fact, she said, the new legislation could actually be harmful to timely care and authorizations, in that it allows an option for paper claims to be submitted at a later date, whereas the current system has an incentive for electronic filing within two days, she said.

The Senate-approved bill is now headed to the Assembly Committee on Appropriations.