Bipartisan mental health reform bill gains momentum in wake of shootings

While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was supposed to fix disparities in how insurers cover the costs of mental healthcare, the results so far have been mixed.

And now the national debate over the need to provide more treatment for people with mental health problems is heating up in light of the latest mass shooting at a community college in Roseburg, Oregon. The 26-year-old gunman, who killed himself, reportedly had a mental health disorder.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said his bipartisan mental health reform bill is gaining momentum and will get a hearing later this month in the Senate health committee, according to report from The Hill.

Along with companion legislation introduced in the House, the bills would remove barriers for Medicaid funding of mental health treatment, such as a ban on receiving physical and mental health services on the same day and limits on funding for treatment at mental health facilities, noted The Hill. The legislation would also create a new assistant secretary for mental health in the Department of Health and Human Services.

"I know we're talking about this in a more robust way because of these shootings," Chris Murphy said at an event hosted by the National Journal. "The mental-health system needs to be fixed because it's broken. Period. Stop."

The ACA's mental health parity coverage laws, intended to mandate better mental health coverage, including treatment for substance abuse disorders, have been difficult to implement and enforce, according to an April report released by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The study found people with mental health issues are struggling to find therapists and psychiatrists who accept their insurance plans, face more frequent coverage and treatment denials than for other services and have trouble getting medication coverage.

The alliance also found that 33 percent of consumers received denials of authorization for mental health or substance abuse treatment from their insurer.

Limited access to substance-abuse treatment and mental healthcare have also become a major concern given the country's opioid epidemic. Many consumers have found their health insurance plans won't cover services for substance abuse counseling. 

To learn more:
- read The Hill report on proposed legislation
- read more from the National Journal event


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