Malloy vetos substance abuse treatment bill opposed by insurance industry

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has vetoed a bill opposed by the insurance industry that would have required carriers to report information about the substance abuse treatment they have covered and their networks of mental health and substance abuse treatment providers.

The bill passed both chambers of the General Assembly unanimously and had the support of mental health and substance abuse treatment providers and people who had received treatment for addiction.

Malloy said he supported the objective of the measure, which was intended to increase the amount of information available about substance abuse treatment and coverage, but was concerned that it could lead to inaccurate information being gathered.

In his veto message, Malloy wrote that there could be many people who seek treatment for substance abuse but are reported to their insurers as being treated for other conditions, such as depression or anxiety. Malloy said the data the measure would require insurers to collect could be inaccurate, leading to policies and consumer decisions based on flawed information.

The measure grew out of research by the legislature’s Program Review and Investigations Committee Staff Office, which raised concerns about privately insured patients’ access to substance abuse treatment.

The bill would have required insurers to report information on substance abuse treatment coverage to the Connecticut Insurance Department, for inclusion in the department’s annual consumer report card on health insurance carriers. The insurers would have been required to report information including:

  • The estimated number and percentage of members who get treatment for a substance use disorder and the level of care provided
  • The median length of covered treatment
  • Claims expenses
  • The number of in-network providers who offer substance use disorder treatment and percentage accepting new patients
  • The number of providers and facilities that treat mental health and substance use disorders and sought to join the carrier’s network, were accepted or stopped participating in the network
  • Factors that might negatively impact members’ access to treatment for substance use disorders, including screening procedures, the supply of health care providers, limited capacity among treatment providers and reimbursement rates.

Malloy took issue with that last requirement, saying in his veto message that it's unusual for state law to require private entities to "report on activities to achieve public policy objectives," and that he worried about the precedent it could set.

Supporters of the measure, including state Healthcare Advocate Victoria Veltri, said having the data reported would expose problems and give consumers needed information.

“This legislation might not be necessary were it not for the fact that behavioral health is treated differently by the insurance industry than virtually any other health care specialty,” Jeffrey Walter, president and CEO of the treatment provider Rushford, said in written testimony. He added that care for psychiatric and substance use disorders is denied at far higher rates than treatment in other parts of the health care system.

But the Connecticut Association of Health Plans opposed the measure, saying its additional reporting requirements would be “extremely strenuous and time and resource consuming.”

The association also said it would be difficult to accurately report some of the information the bill would have required.

As an alternative, the group suggested policymakers look to the state’s planned all-payer claims database, a repository of insurance claims information that is currently being established.

The veto was one of two Malloy announced Friday. The other would have lifted a statutory ban on the fishing of glass eels.

About Arielle Levin Becker

Arielle Levin Becker was a finalist in 2009 for the prestigious Livingston Award for Young Journalists, a recipient of a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship and the third-place winner in 2013 for an in-depth piece on home caretakers from the National Association of Health Journalists. Arielle previously worked for The Hartford Courant, most recently as its health reporter. She also has covered education and municipal beats for The Courant and for the Home News Tribune of East Brunswick, N.J. She is a 2004 graduate of Yale University. E-mail her at alevinbecker@ctmirror.org.

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