Wyden concedes mental health reform package may be pushed to 2023

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, conceded that a sweeping mental health reform effort may be punted into next year amid a truncated legislative timetable. 

Wyden said last week during an interview for the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health that there is still an opportunity to get a sweeping mental health package included in an end-of-the-year spending bill. The legislation will likely include reforms to pay parity and bring with it new requirements for insurers. 

Wyden said that he and Senate Finance Committee ranking member Larry Crapo, R-Idaho, “decided we weren’t going to have the debate about resources and revenue get to the point where we couldn’t get out our proposal. Obviously, the challenge right now is to take every moving vehicle in Congress and attach to them common-sense bipartisan proposals.”

The committee has so far released several discussion drafts on boosting youth mental health and creating more behavioral health providers to ease a crippling shortage. 

However, it remains unclear how the committee will handle the issue of pay parity, a requirement under the Affordable Care Act. 

Wyden has been rankled by insurers that he said “continue to drag their feet and try to find ways to skirt the letter and spirit of the parity law.”

He gave an example of problems that the University of Oregon’s psychiatry department had getting bills paid.

Wyden released a press release stating he intends to open an investigation into the issue, and, within a few weeks, he said the center got a “gusher” of insurer payments. 

“We can’t have a mental health policy and honor the parity law if only applicable if a member of Congress objects to the foot dragging,” he said.

The Department of Health and Human Services released a road map last month that aims to reform behavioral health financing arrangements in programs like Medicaid.