A Call to Strengthen California’s Mental Health Parity Laws Without Delay

As we might expect during this time of pandemic, state governments are not able to make progress on many pressing issues. In January, California governor Gavin Newsom unveiled a $47 billion proposal to expand health care coverage to all Californians. However, the coronavirus scourge has sidelined that proposal as California has scrambled to find funds to respond to it.

Due to these funding pressures, Governor Newsom has asked lawmakers to prioritize their legislative agendas and focus on the outbreak. One senator, however, is pushing ahead with a proposal to protect Californians suffering from mental illness.

As reported by Kaiser Health News, California State Senator Jim Beall, who is the chair of the Senate Select Committee on Mental Health, wants to toughen state parity laws to ensure that patients with mental illnesses are provided benefits on par with those received by patients with other medical conditions. California and the federal government already have mental health parity laws on the books, but Senator Beall argues that they are not stringent enough and are poorly enforced.

Senator Beall also contends that the pandemic shouldn’t delay implementation of his proposed reforms, and in fact provides a compelling reason to forge ahead. “People are very vulnerable under this kind of stress,” he says. “Senior isolation is a big problem, and it’s going to get worse and worse. The economy is distressed, people losing jobs causes a huge amount of stress, not being able to pay the rent, PTSD kicks in with veterans.”

Senator Beall also emphasized that society’s practice of segregating mental health treatment from other kinds of treatment needs to end. “We’ve been trained in our minds to think of mental health as a social failing, not a real, legitimate health care issue. In fact, mental health is just like any other disease. If you don’t treat it, it gets worse and worse.”

Kantor & Kantor supports this initiative, as we have seen first-hand how mental health patients have been mistreated by insurers. We have had many cases involving patients with mental illnesses, and often they have included arguments about the application of parity laws. One of those cases is the landmark Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Harlick v. Blue Shield of California, in which the court agreed with us that California parity laws prohibit insurers from excluding coverage for residential mental health treatment.

If you believe an insurance company is unfairly discriminating against you or someone you know in the pursuit of mental health benefits, please call Kantor & Kantor for a free consultation at 800-446-7529 or use our online contact form.

 

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