Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie file photo
Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie file photo)

HARTFORD, CT — The House unanimously passed a bill Monday that requires insurance companies to report the criteria they use to determine access to mental or behavioral health services.

The bill now heads to the Senate.

The legislation builds on the federal mental health parity law passed in 2008 and the 2013 law passed after the Sandy Hook school shooting. The Sandy Hook law reduced the amount of time an insurance company has to respond to a request for behavioral health services from 72 hours to 24 hours.

Under current law insurance companies must use documented clinical review criteria based on sound clinical evidence to review the requests for coverage from patients, but they don’t necessarily have to report that information.

CLICK TO VOTE ON HB 7125: An Act Concerning Parity For Mental Health And Substance Use Disorder Benefits, Nonquantitative Treatment Limitations, Drugs Prescribed For The Treatment Of Substance Use Disorders, And Substance Abuse Services

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“No one in Connecticut should be discriminated against because they have a disease of the brain versus a disease of the body,” Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, said.

But he said that’s exactly what’s happening now.

Scanlon said Milliman, an actuarial consulting firm, released a study in 2017 that show that “Connecticut had the worst mental health parity compliance in the United States of America.”

He said 34% of all mental health claims were deemed to be “out of network” compared to three percent for physical health. “That is a staggering statistic,” Scanlon said.

Rep. Brenda Kupchick, R-Fairfield, said after Sandy Hook it was “glaringly obvious that there were families across this state that were not getting services that they needed for their family members.”

Kupchick said they realized they needed data about what exactly was happening and why certain people were being denied.

“We need real data so we can fix a broken mental healthcare system in the state,” Kupchick said.

Scanlon said advocates for the legislation believe the provider networks are not great for mental health and that is tied into “non-compliance with the federal parity law.” Scanlon said the state will be trying to take further action in the future with more data.

“The Milliman report was a shocking call to action for those of us who care about access to mental health services and today’s vote is a giant step in the direction of ending discrimination toward, and stigmatization of, mental health and ensuring that everyone can get the treatment they deserve,” Scanlon said.

Scanlon said many insurance companies are already tracking this data so he doesn’t view it as an “onerous” bill that would increase premiums for policyholders.

The bill is part of a push by former Congressman Patrick Kennedy to get states to pass bills like the one the House passed Monday to ensure that states are complying with the federal parity law.