The recent passing of the 21st Century Cures Bill will help set in motion a series of major changes when it comes to the way that treatment for mental and behavioral health concerns are reimbursed, some advocates say.
In the past, mental health disorders and treatment for conditions, such as substance abuse, were typically viewed as separate from what was considered billable by insurance companies, and in some areas, were managed by a unique government entity.
But in light of increased public awareness of these concerns in the past decade, and with greater appreciation for the demands that the country’s current opioid epidemic is placing on public health agencies and state-run Medicaid programming, this view is beginning to evolve.
In the future, it is going to be increasingly common for mental health treatment to be viewed in a context similar to how physical health treatment is seen, and new legislation is spurring a more comprehensive, streamlined approach to care. Additionally, new funds are being set aside to support the research and development of new, innovative treatment methodologies.
Access to Care in Arkansas
The state of Arkansas spends millions of dollars each year to provide treatment for low-income residents who require mental health treatment. These services are wide-reaching, ranging from school-based services for children with behavioral challenges, to in-patient, residential care for adults struggling with acute mental illness.
But the state’s system for paying for these services has come under fire in recent years, and lawmakers have been tasked with overhauling the existing plan to help control costs and improve access to care.
A measure was put forth to hire a managed care plan to help address these concerns, but this solution fell short of what many providers felt was a viable option for improving the current situation given that it would have put new limits in place on billing for certain types of care.
According to Robin Raveendran, executive director of the Arkansas Alliance for Health Improvement, “managed care is not for Arkansas.”
Raveendran was part of a group of Arkansas healthcare providers who recently banned together to stop the measure that would have allowed the state legislature to hire an outside managed care plan.
Looking Ahead with the 21st Century Cures Bill
While managed care may not be the answer, it has become apparent that change is needed when it comes to the way Arkansas manages access to mental and behavioral health treatment.
At the same time, the 21st Century Cures Bill is set to allocate $1 billion in state grants over two years to address opioid abuse and addiction, and improve funding for mental health research and treatment by providing hundreds of millions of dollars to support a myriad of existing and new programs.
It is hoped that the 21st Century Cures Bill will assist Arkansas lawmakers in developing solutions that will lead to sustained, improved access to the quality care that so many residents need.